Marita chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:
It should go without saying that I, as a member of Tesuque Pueblo, would choose this colorful rain god; rain gods are what Tesuque is known for. There are two main types of rain god created by Tesuque potters: micaceous-slipped figures and poster-painted ones. This one is decorated with poster paint. Rain gods are also called munas, which means “funny makers” or “clowns.” Munas are meant to bring humor into our lives. You cannot help but smile when you take the time to look closely at this piece. It is humorous yet simplistic in nature.
I was drawn to this muna because of its funny smirk and eyes. It makes me very curious about the identity of the artist. The bright paints remind me of my aunt Domingita Abeyta’s work. I have early memories of her working on her rain gods and other pottery. She worked with traditional and micaceous clays, and used both poster paints and micaceous slips. She was a prolific potter, and sold her works under the portal of the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe and even from her home in Tesuque Pueblo if tourists happened to drop in. I have several munas in my collection made by Aunt Domingita, but I do not have any painted with poster paint.
I would like to think this muna is female. Most rain gods are not gendered, but, given its colors and the fact it is painted with eyelashes, eyebrows, and a necklace with fringed triangular pendants, it seems to be feminine. The use of black to outline the other colors on the face enhances their boldness. The feathers and the red kiva steps on the bowl are common motifs on rain gods and other Tesuque pottery.
There are numerous Tesuque tribal members who currently work in clay, but only a few make rain gods. I started making these funny little figurines several years ago, and I definitely enjoy creating them. This is a dying art, and it must continue as a vital part of our culture and traditions. When I begin making my figures, I pray and look at my aunt’s pieces for inspiration. One day I might make a poster-painted rain god inspired by this one and by Aunt Domingita, and hopefully it will make someone else smile too.