Felicia Garcia

Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians/ Samala Chumash

Curator Felicia Garcia, a member of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians/Samala Chumash, is a museum scholar and the former Curator of Education at the Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe. She currently works for the Indigenous data sovereignty initiative Local Contexts, and strives to use her platform to support Indigenous sovereignty within museum spaces and other cultural institutions.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Felicia chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

William Pacheco dinosaur water jar

William Andrew Pacheco | Kewa/Santo Domingo
Water jar
Clay and paint
8½ x 8¾ in. (21.6 x 22.2 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Long Necks

I was first introduced to William Andrew Pacheco’s pottery when I arrived at the Indian Arts Research Center as an intern in 2018. While I was doing an introductory walk-through of the collections, a larger work of his caught my eye. The pot was covered in what I still affectionately refer to as “long necks.” I remember the overwhelming sense of nostalgia that struck me the moment I set my eyes on that pot. I was instantly transported back to my childhood, when my cousins and I pretended that the rocks in my auntie’s front yard were dinosaur eggs.

Every dinosaur on Pacheco’s pottery is completely unique; they are minimalist, but have a soft and fluid style that conveys a sense of movement. I wanted to see all the figures that inhabited the outside of that pot, so I peeked around the back to get a view of the other side and spotted the smaller piece that I selected to write about for this project. The simpler designs with exaggerated proportions reminded me of so many drawings I created as a dinosaur-loving child. One of my favorite elements is the back set of legs on each of the two “long necks.”

The artist was just twelve years old when he created this pot. When I was around the same age, I completed my first basket. My tribe used to host gatherings for the community in our old bingo hall, and at one particular event there was a woman who sat at her booth and taught community members how to weave. While my cousins ran from booth to booth, I was completely captivated by the idea of creating a basket. I spent the entire day sitting with the woman at the booth, working on my first basket. By the end of the day I had a completed project. It was only about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter, but I was proud. I forgot about that little basket until a recent visit home, when I noticed that my mom had it on her nightstand. This rudimentarily made basket that I had forgotten about for so many years had become one of my mom’s most cherished creations from my childhood.

This pot reminds me of the individual lives of each of the pieces in this exhibition. It is a reminder that, just like my little basket, every pot has a story and was cherished by someone. The makers and their descendants are still very much connected to these items, and this little dinosaur pot is an important reminder for me to honor those stories and relationships. We rarely see children’s artwork in museum collections, but it is evidence of the ongoing cultural and artistic traditions of our communities. I continue to be connected to my ancestors in so many ways, and my first basket is just one expression of our connection to the past as we move toward the future.