Melissa Antonio (American, Acoma Pueblo, Born 1965), Olla with meander basketry designs, Ceramic, Collection of Walter Melion and John Clum, © Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University
How the Mexican village of Mata Ortiz became famous is the stuff of ballads: a little boy gathering firewood finds some ancient Indian pots, decides to make his own, is discovered by the art world, and saves his village from ruin.
Several pieces of this contemporary pottery—made by Juan Quezada and hundreds of other villagers whom he taught—are now found in Emory’s Michael C. Carlos Museum. They are part of a gift from Walter Melion and John Clum in the newly redesigned Art of the Americas gallery, which extends the range of the collections from South and Central America to North America.
Melion is Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Art History at Emory College of Arts and Sciences; Clum, his partner, is a professor emeritus of theater studies and English at Duke University. The installation of their gift, Walking in the Footsteps of Our Ancestors: the Melion-Clum Collection of Modern Southwestern Pottery, includes seed pots, red- and blackware, vessels inspired by basketry, and a large case of objects made by the Mata Ortiz potters.
An additional case in the gallery will feature the museum’s Maria and Julian Martínez signed black-on-black vessel. The Native American artists studied traditional Pueblo pottery styles and techniques to create pieces that reflected the Pueblo people’s legacy of fine artwork and crafts.
The Art of the Americas gallery now contains more than 430 works of art spanning four thousand years, with representations from Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. For the first time, visitors can see cross-cultural displays—art that appears in a geographical context to illustrate similarities and differences between neighboring cultures, says Rebecca Stone, faculty curator of the Art of the Americas gallery and a professor of art history at Emory College.