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 mug
c. 1150–1300
Clay and paint
4½ x 4 in. (11.4 x 10.2 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Strength from Our Ancestors

Throughout my life, I have been very fortunate to visit such historically important places as Bandelier, Puye Cliffs, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon. I love walking the same paths as those walked by my ancestors, following their footsteps, feeling their presence, seeing pottery, and studying drawings. I introduce myself to my ancestors, tell them of my intentions, leave my offering, and thank the ancient ones for walking with me and showing me their home. I experience a place of gathering for our people, and feel and understand the environment and its elements. In these surroundings, I always feel a sense of renewal and balance. This is reflected in my re-creations of ancestral pottery.

My creativity deepens by my visiting these places and studying early art forms. Embedded in these locations are stories of our emergence into this world, of our livelihood, and of our spiritual journey. Such stories are evident in our traditional arts, early paintings, and rock carvings. Many mugs were found in the Mesa Verde area. These vessels served the community for both utilitarian and ceremonial purposes. When I see our ancestral pottery, the bold painting styles draw me in. The contrasting black-and-white designs are striking and the shapes distinctive. The pieces have an almost contemporary feel. These vessels capture the significance of life and our relationship to the universe.

I often wonder who made and designed this mug. Who held it and cared for it, so it could be seen hundreds of years later? I imagine the taste of water in this mug and how it brought strength to the person drinking from it, helping them in their life’s journey.

With clay, you are bringing to life a feeling that comes from within; it becomes a part of you, and everything you touch and create has a purpose.