Lynda Romero

Pojoaque Pueblo

Curator Lynda Romero (Pojoaque) is Collections Manager at the Poeh Cultural Center, Pueblo of Pojoaque.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Lynda chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Ohkay Owingeh jar

Ohkay Owingeh jar
c. 1900
15¾ x 18 in. (40 x 45.7 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

San Ildefonso jar with lid

San Ildefonso jar with lid
c. 1900–10
Clay and paint
20¾ x 16 in. (52.7 x 40.6 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Always Learning

I began to have a relationship with pottery when I became involved with a community loan between the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) and the Poeh Cultural Center. Although I have been Collections Manager at the Poeh for many years, I realized that there was much I did not know, and I became fascinated. I went on several visits to NMAI’s Cultural Resources Center, where its collection is stored, and I began to familiarize myself with the pots. During these sessions, I and other Tewa community members were able to work closely with the pots, handling, feeling, and smelling them. It was there that I noticed some pots had a lip just beneath the rim that looked as if it may have been for a lid. Until then, I had never really associated lids with traditional pottery, but I wanted to know: what happened to the lids?

This is when I found out I was mistaken: decorative lids with handles are a more modern design feature.

I began to stop associating pottery with artwork and to understand that the pots are functional objects for everyday use. I took a new look at pottery being utilitarian and what that really means. Pottery was made specifically for storage purposes. It was more important for it to be functional and simple than to be elaborate and decorative.

The black Ohkay Owingeh jar I chose for this project is a typical representation, in historical terms, of a storage jar. It was made for utilitarian use, to store clothing, blankets, food, and water, among other things. It would have been placed in the corner of a room and covered, not by a decorative lid, but by a piece of cloth or buckskin, fastened with a leather thong, or by planks of wood. The lip would have been used as a handle. The more decorative San Ildefonso jar with a lid appears more contemporary. This type of lid, with a handle, was not very functional because it could easily be broken and was difficult to replicate.

As I work with pottery, I start to see differences in the way pottery is made. When I see an old pot that has simple, basic designs with lines that are not straight and a less-than-perfect form, it feels inviting, almost human. I can relate to the pot. When I see a more contemporary pot with precise designs and a perfect form, it feels uninviting, as if it should be seen and not touched.

In my relationship with pottery, I can start to see how modern conveniences have changed the way we live. In my family, I see exactly where our more traditional, cultural ways of life shifted and had to adjust to new ways. For me, it is important not to let the more traditional forms and uses of pottery be forgotten. This is our way of life.