Clarence Cruz / Khaayay
Tewa / Ohkay Owingeh
Curator Clarence Cruz/Khaayay (Tewa/Ohkay Owingeh) is Assistant Professor in the Art Department at the University of New Mexico. He is also a traditional potter and in 2020 was a recipient of a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship.
Clarence chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:
Veronica C. Cruz
Veronica was a tribal member of Ohkay Owingeh, formerly known as San Juan Pueblo. Ohkay Owingeh is located 28 miles (45 km) north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, along the Rio Grande, and is one of the Eight Northern Pueblos (the others being Taos, Picuris, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Nambé, Pojoaque, and Tesuque).
Known as Potsuwi’i incised, Veronica’s pottery style is one that was revived from archaeological Tewa pottery in the late 1930s by Regina Cata.¹ Her pot was made from harvested Tewa clay, and the red and micaceous slips were gathered from two different unknown areas.
As a potter myself, I can relate to the process of creating this pot and the time taken. I imagine Veronica preparing the clay, smelling its damp, sweet, earthy aroma, like the ground after a rain shower. For my own pottery-making, I leave home early in the morning to gather my clays and slips. I wonder who else I might see at the sites where I gather the material. At the same time, I remember those before me who may also have traveled there. I give thanks to the Creator for the material and ask for her guidance in the creation process.
Veronica’s Potsuwi’i incised pot connects me to my own style of Potsuwi’i incising, which involves using horizontal, diagonal, and vertical lines to create geometric designs. Most Potsuwi’i incising is done on the shoulder of a pot, although sometimes incisions are made on the midsection. This allows the potter to slip and polish above and below the incised design, and the incisions can then be painted with micaceous slip or left untouched. Like Veronica, I tend to do both.
The final step in creation is the emergence, the “birth” of the pot as it comes through the ring of fire. This is the moment when Veronica would have taken a breath of life inward, welcomed and given thanks to Pin Kwiyo (Clay Woman), and acknowledged all the elements involved. Like all potters, I also feel the warmth she must have felt from a successful firing. We too are of the elements of creation.
As I hold and give my breath into the center of Veronica’s pot, I thank her and those before her for preserving Pueblo pottery-making at Ohkay Owingeh.
¹ Regina was married to Eulogio Cata, who was Governor of San Juan Pueblo at that time. She organized a group of potters from Ohkay Owingeh consisting of the following: Luteria Atencio, Crucita Cruz, Gregorita Cruz, Tomasita Montoya, Crucita Atencio Talachy, Crucita Trujillo, and Reycita Trujillo. Montoya (1899–1978) was the last surviving potter from the original group.