Jerry Dunbar

Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

Curator Jerry Dunbar (Ysleta del Sur Pueblo) is a potter and artist.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Jerry chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Pueblo Pardo jar

Pueblo Pardo jar
c. 1550–1672
Clay and paint
4¼ x 6¼ in. (10.8 x 15.9 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Pueblo Pardo Jar

What attracts us to a piece of pottery? What speaks to us? Is it the style, the shape, the painted designs, or is it something ancestral within us?

I agonized over how to start, where to start, this, the writing part of the project. I had a dream in which I completed the text, only to wake up and realize that I had not written a word. The worst part was that I did not remember anything from the dream, until now.

In my dream, I was walking down the street and passed a candy shop. I decided to enter, but once I was inside, the store became the vaults of different museums I have visited. In these vaults were shelves filled with pottery, row upon row of pots, all displayed neatly, from ancestral to traditional and contemporary. I was the proverbial child in a candy shop, just wowed by the works of art. The talent, imagination, and motivation required to create these works still astonish and inspire me. This store became the doorway, the connection, to the present, past, and future.

For generations, our grandparents, indeed all those who came before us, have made offerings and said prayers as they walked worn paths, guided by previous knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of the clay, ash, and pigments. This knowledge has been passed down from one generation to the next, shared with those who wanted to learn.

Our ancestors learned which clay, ash, and pigments worked best; they made test pieces to ensure the correct consistency, seeing if the beeweed and other pigments would adhere. When firing the vessels, they wondered if the fire was hot enough as they waited for the pieces to be born.

On my third or fourth visit to SAR to make my selection for this project, one piece that I had not seen before spoke to me immediately. My eyes saw it for the first time, just sitting there, even though I had been to SAR on many previous occasions to gather inspiration and ideas. What drew me to this Pueblo Pardo jar was how understated it is.

What spoke to me in particular was the style, shape, and understated designs, as well as the jar’s origins in the Salinas Province area. I wondered what the motivation had been to shape and design the piece in this way.

When I picked up the jar, I felt its spirit, its energy, the ridges of fingertips as they formed the clay coils, attaching each coil to the previous one. As the potter worked and added new coils, they prayed, spoke with the piece, shaping it, giving it form, being guided by its spirit. The piece was waiting to be fired, waiting to be born.

Such is the wisdom and knowledge passed down from past generations to the present and to generations to come.