Rick Kinsel


Curator Rick Kinsel is President of the Vilcek Foundation in Lenapehoking (New York City).


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Rick chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Zia water jar

Zia water jar
c. 1890
Clay and paint
13 x 13 in. (33 x 33 cm)
Collection Vilcek Foundation

The Happy Deer Pot

My favorite work from the Vilcek Collection is also one of our newest additions: a Zia water jar from around 1890. I think of this pot as the “life on earth” pot. To me, the deer grazing among wildflowers recalls the harmonies of nature, and a life lived in balance with the seasons. Rain is the lifeblood of the desert; when it comes, it quenches the deeply parched earth and sustains the plants, animals, and people living there. After the rain, the desert erupts with plants and flowers, and the happy deer enjoys the bounty. I acknowledge that my observations as a non-Native person are not indicative or representative of those of the Pueblo artists or of their Pueblo’s intentions or beliefs when it came to creating this pot. Of course, members of the Zia community have their own meanings for the subject matter and decisions that went into the creation of this pot—and those are probably very different from my observations as a non-Native.

The Pueblo of Zia is an Indigenous nation with a long history in what are now known as the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. Today, its people reside in Zia Pueblo in north-central New Mexico.