Ancient Forms, Modern Minds: Contemporary Cherokee Ceramics
August 20 - November 5, 2016
Organized by the Asheville Art Museum and made possible through the support of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation
The Cherokee have been making pottery in Western North Carolina for almost 3,000 years. Though nearly disappearing in the 19th century, the tradition survived, emerging as a contemporary art form enriched by the Cherokee artists who have carefully preserved and passed on their practice from one generation to the next. For the first 2,000 years of the tradition, Cherokee potters created large, thin-walled, waterproof pots that were stamped with geometric designs. Early in the 20th century, this style was almost entirely replaced by the production of heavier pottery, termed “blackware,” which was incised rather than stamped, a style common to the Catawba, Pueblo and Navajo tribes at that time.
Though heavily influenced by these other Native American traditions, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians developed their own techniques. Commonly referred to as the “traditional” style, this work persisted as the dominant form for the duration of the 20th century. It was not until the beginning of the 21st century that Cherokee potters revived the historic, thin-walled pottery style. During the present century, a third category of artists working in a contemporary style emerged, producing highly decorated and glazed ceramic works. Many of these artists utilize the Cherokee syllabary or other Cherokee symbols in their work. Artists including Davy Arch, Darrin Bark, Bernadine George, Betty Maney, Harold Long, Shirley Oswalt, Joel Queen, Dean Reed, Alyne Stamper and Amanda Swimmer are among those featured in “Ancient Forms, Modern Minds.”
Image Credit: Davy Arch. Gumby Pot, c. 2005. Hand-built, low-fired incised and stamped ceramic vessel. 4.25 x 10.25 x 10.25 inches. Collection of the Asheville Art Museum.