Lorraine Gala Lewis

Laguna, Taos, Hopi Pueblos

Curator Lorraine Gala Lewis (Laguna, Taos, Hopi) is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, and a clay artist who loves to paint. She works closely with museums and art institutions throughout the country, viewing collections and research, and is also an advocate for social and environmental issues concerning the protection of Pueblo natural lands and cultural resources.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Lorraine chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Mesa Verde ladle c. 1050–1300 Clay and paint 􀂊 2¼ x 11'⁄( x 5½ in. (5.7 x 30.2 x 14 cm) IAF.2400

Mesa Verde ladle
c. 1050–1300
Clay and paint
2¼ x 11 ⅞ x 5½ in. (5.7 x 30.2 x 14 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

The Journey of a Little Clay Ladle

The black-and-white ladle comes from a special place called Mesa Verde. I often think of the person who created this piece: the technique they used to build it, the thought behind the design, the time it took to form the open face and the handle. I study their polishing and painting techniques and imagine how this object was fired. The ladle was made with purpose, out of necessity for an individual or a community. It held water that sustained our livelihood.

We were given gifts of tradition and ties to our universe by our Creator. We are strong, our people are strong. For those who have come and gone before us, our creation of pottery shows our connection to the environment. Our ancient ones gave us a glimpse into their perspective on everyday life. I draw strength when I visit their home; I breathe the same air, walk the same paths, drink water from the same source, see the same sunrise, moon, and stars. I feel their presence surround me. They share their life with me. This is what I feel when I hold the ladle in my hand.

Creating pottery is my livelihood. Our ancestors have passed on their creations in many forms. These forms and designs are incorporated into today’s traditional and contemporary pottery. In my ancestral re-creations, I try to capture the aesthetic beauty and individuality of each piece. I share my work with respect in the hope of preserving a pottery culture that existed hundreds of years ago. My intention is to share our culture with others and to inform people of the importance of protecting our natural and cultural resources so that we can continue to pass them on to our grandchildren.

I title my work Visions from Our Past, and dedicate my pottery to our earliest teachers, the true masters of Pueblo pottery.

I am here for a reason. You sought me out, but it is
     I who found you.
My journey over the years is to show you … who I am.
I am your family,
your roots, your ties to the universe,
your ties to the community,
your ties to tradition.
Our connection to the plants and animals.
Use me to tell people about me and what I represent.
How I was made,
what I was made of,
when I was made,
why I was made,
the importance of my existence.
Serving water and food to sustain
     our livelihood.
I’ve seen our resilience.
Our times of abundance.
Our times of shortage.
I am strong, I have a spirit.
I am alive, talk to me,
take care of me, protect me,
honor and respect me.
I’ll return to the earth where I came from.
I’ve served my purpose,
now you serve yours …
and tell people about me.