This wonderful nativity was created by Leonard Yellow Horse who was born in 1971 in Chadron, Nebraska. He is a self taught artist who in 1991 started working with cottonwood root sourced from dry river beds mostly on the Pine Ridge Reservation or in the Badlands.
Leonard has a very distinctive technique he inherited from his family. He hand carves his figures and then uses a torch to create additional detail.
Of his work he says: “My work is calling from the Elders who want to be seen again, but through the roots. It’s not what I put into the root; the root has a voice and a character of its own. No two pieces are the same. Each piece is unique.”
This nativity is a great example of an artist depicting the many figures of the Nativity narrative in their own image. The Magi for instance are presented as Lakota elders. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are Lakota. And the traditional ox and donkey are replaced with buffalo.
This Holy Family in blackware pottery was created by Lawrence Vargas.
Mr. Vargas is a self-taught artist from New Mexico. He works out of his studio with a view of Petroglyphs National Monument near Albuquerque, NM together with members of his family. His style is distinctive and is inspired by his multi-cultural ancestry. His work represents a unique blend of the different cultures found in the southwest.
A skilled and multi-talented artisan, Mr. Vargas’ artistic expressions comprise different subject matters and different mediums. He is best known for his blackware pottery, harvest maiden series and storyteller figures and paintings. His work is the result of a deep spiritual inspiration interwoven with his life experience.
This nativity is hand painted blackware pottery. The use of both high gloss and matte finish on the jet-black clay creates a great contrast and allows for expressive representations in these otherwise semi-abstract figures. Some of the figures are enhanced with a characteristic piece of turquoise.
This elegant Flight into Egypt was created by Jack Black.
Jack Black, a member of the Navajo Nation was born in Galveston Texas. He was introduced to Navajo art as he grew up and received his formal education at the Institute of Design in Chicago.
Jack Black’s work is a tribute to the Southwest. His style is modernist Navajo with graceful lines and minimalist design. His sculptures though only partially glazed are smooth to the touch and pleasing to the eye. The colors he used are reminiscent of the beauty of the Southwest with its blue sky, ochre canyons and sand-colored panoramas.
After sketching each piece Jack Black created the original sculpture. From that a production mold was made. Then stoneware figures were cast from the molds. After the figures were cleaned and detailed by hand, they were fired at 1900 degrees. They were then sanded, cleaned again, and fired with multiple coats of glaze. Though created in a mold, each one of Jack Black’s sculptures is unique.
Mr. Black died in 2002. At that time all the molds were destroyed. This insured the value and rarity of the existing pieces.
Depictions of the Flight into Egypt are rare in general, and they are even more rare among pueblo potters. Angel Bailon has been making nativities and angels for years. Her son suggested that she make a Flight into Egypt, and this is the result.
Joseph leads the donkey holding Mary and the Baby Jesus. He wears a folded blanket over his shoulder in formal pueblo style. All the painted decorations are traditional Santo Domingo Pueblo pottery designs. Santo Domingo Pueblo is about half way between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The height of Mary on the donkey is six inches tall (15 cm.).
Angel Bailon is originally from the Jemez Pueblo, but married into the Santo Domingo Pueblo where here husband, Ralph is from. She has been making pottery since 1979. She was taught by her mother, Marie Coriz, and specializes in storytellers, nativity sets, and necklaces. She signs each piece A & R Bailon.
Santana Seonia depicts the nativity inside a kiva, the ceremonial chamber for New Mexico pueblos. Typically, kivas are round. This one has steps to the top and a ladder to descend into the chamber. A small pottery angel sits on top of the roof. Mary and Joseph and Baby are shown in the cut out side of the kiva. Three wise men are kneeling outside the kiva, and each one holds a pueblo style gift. A shepherd with a staff and four animals are also outside. Then animals outside the humans. The kiva is three inches tall.
Each piece is hand-formed from clay found at the pueblo, sun-dried and fired in a Horno oven, then painted in the pueblo’s traditional shades of brown, black, grey and rust.
Pueblo inspired nativity set was created by Ann Graffy. The figures reflect
some of the characteristics of Pueblo life. Beautifully plain in their
wrap-around clothes they become a perfect showcase for the simple but highly
effective ceramic ornamentation. This nativity comprises nine figurines and a
rug. The dimensions of the figurines are as follows: standing human figures are approximately 4 1/2″ x
2″ x 1 3/4′; baby & cradle, 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ x 1; sheep
2 1/4″ x 3 1/8″ x 1 ¼. The rug with fringe is6 3/4″ x 8″.
Ann Graffy was born to an Illinois farming family on March 21, 1953. She became interested in art during her early childhood and later began formal studies at the University of Arkansas where she received her bachelors’ degree. During Ann’s college years she joined the Catholic religious order of the Sisters of Mercy. During her 10 years in the order, Ann taught various art classes and developed art programs for many parochial schools. She designed cards and calendars and created several public works of art. After Ann left the Sisters of Mercy she continued her work as an artist. She is quite prolific and her work is always of high quality and accessible to the public.
This bright and colorful nativity is made in painted tin. Unlike many of the typical tin nativities each one of the 10 shiny figurines stands on its own without a support piece in the back. The set of brightly colored figurines include
Hojalata or tin art work is undoubtedly one of the least known, most versatile, and most beautiful expressions of Mexican folk art is. Since the 1500’s, this humble metal has been made more pleasing by being shaped, stamped, punched, painted and cut into a wide variety of decorative and functional artwork. These days, Mexican artisans use natural, oxidized and brightly lacquered tin to create ornaments, mirrors, lanterns and other decorative pieces such as this nacimiento.
This Nativity from Tonala in Jalisco, Mexico was created by the Ortega family. This family has a long tradition of creating whimsical figures and scenes known as “Barro Betus.” They also use this tradition when depicting this nativity. Characteristic of this tradition is the depiction of the Magi riding an elephant, a horse and a dromedary. The bright colors are not only used for the clothing of the human figures but also for the animals. The horns of the lamb, e.g. are painted in the colors of Mexico. The technique used is know as Tonala after the city where it was developed centuries ago.
The ceramic production in Tonala is also known as the authentic mestizo ceramic. The tradition of burnished clay comes from the Tonalteca group, which used clay to produce polished forms.
The bright hues used for burnishing the objects originated from the powdered colorful clay found in Mexican soil. During colonial times, the production of pottery incorporated decoration techniques such as colorful lacquer brought by the Augustinian missionaries in the 17th century.
Today, the artisans of the Valley of Tonalá such as the Ortega family still use the burnishing techniques of their pre-Hispanic ancestors, fused with colonial styles that resulted in sophisticated ceramics that became an important part of Mexico’s artistic traditions.
This Nativity by Nina Malone sets the birth of Jesus in a Navajo context. There are eleven figures in total: Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child, three Magi, a donkey and an ox, and two sheep. The different pieces have been glued onto the base.
The nativity is handmade from natural clay in Navajo Folk Art style. These kind of figurines are known as Mud Toys. Each piece is individually hand formed. Mud toys are often sun baked and not fired like traditional pottery. Each figurine is painted with acryclic paint.
This rustic Holy Family which depicts Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child in a stable was carved by Hector Rascon. The simplicity of design and material highlight the fact that the Christ Child was born in poverty to a humble family.
Hector Rascon learned the art of carving from his father-in-law, and famous artist, Ben Ortega. Hector is perhaps best known for his carvings of St. Francis and angels which grace so many homes and gardens in Northern NM.
Hector carves his pieces from cottonwood and follows the natural gentle bends in the wood. Each piece reflects its own personality and character dictated by the wood and the subject matter. Hector is one of Northern New Mexico’s most recognized folk artists. “This is my full-time work and I’m very proud of what I do. I love to carve and give every piece my full attention.”