John V. Bezy, geologist and co-author of “The Artistry and History of Mata Ortiz,” will present a lecture on the history of the modern Mata Ortiz ceramics tradition at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 2. He will be accompanied by master potter Oralia López, who will provide a demonstration of her techniques.
The presentation, “Influence of Prehistoric Casas Grandes Pottery on the Modern Mata Ortiz Ceramics Tradition,” is part of the Four Corners Lecture Series and is free and open to the public.
Bezy has worked with the potters of Mata Ortiz for many years and conducts educational tours to Mexico and Latin America.
López has set the standard in Mata Ortiz for finely executed geometric pottery designs. She is most famous for her unique patterns of graduated squares and triangles, drawn with such exactness that a secondary design of diamonds is produced. The designs are painted on white clay with black, red, and white paints mixed from local minerals. She shows her work throughout the United States, and her reputation as an exceptional artist has spread to Europe and Asia.
The Marta Ortiz style of pottery is inspired by ancient Casas Grandes ceramics made by potters from the pre-Columbian city of Paquimé, in northern Mexico. One of the most important archaeological sites in northern Mexico and the American Southwest, Paquimé served as a conduit for religious ideas, crops, pottery making techniques, and trade goods, such as cotton textiles, pottery, parrots, parrot feathers, and copper bells from southern Mexico into the Southwest. This Mexican trade impacted the culture of the Hohokam, Mogollon, and ancestral Pueblo peoples of Arizona and New Mexico.
Paquimé was a religious center, with great temple mounds, and a center for the production of cotton textiles, shell and turquoise jewelry, and decorated pottery. Pieces of this pottery can be found around the numerous archaeological sites in the valleys of northwest Chihuahua, including the valley of the Palanganas River, where Mata Ortiz is located. Beginning in the 1950s, young men such as Juan Quezada and Felix Ortiz, began to experiment to see if they could reproduce this prehistoric pottery. By the 1970, they had learned how to form, paint, and fire the vessels. Although these early pots were not finely made, sales to tourists generated income for these early artists.
Today, Mata Ortiz pottery is internationally known for its elegant forms, precision designs, and beautiful colors. Many Mata Ortiz potters have incorporated designs from ancient Casas Grandes pots or from local petroglyphs into their work. Mata Ortiz pots grace thousands of private collections in Japan, Europe, Latin America, the United States, and Canada.
Crow Canyon is located at 23390 Road K, Cortez. For more information, call 970-565-8975.