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Navajo artist Christine McHorse was one of the most innovative contemporary forces in Native American pottery. Working from traditional materials and techniques, McHorse’s vessel-based art blended the boundaries of pottery and sculpture, erasing the line between function and form.
Through the unadulterated beauty of micaceous clay and with Puebloan construction techniques learned from her Taos mother-in-law, McHorse transformed her sketches into voluminous shapes that swell upwards like a natural spring. Dismissing the rudimentary forms that define Native American ethnic identity in craft, she returned to primordial shapes, akin to the modern aesthetic of Henri Moore and Constantin Brancusi. Experimenting with shape, mass, volume, and line, she created organic vessels in the vein of her ancestors, who recognized the spiritual power of water, air, and earth.
To complement her natural forms, McHorse gave each piece its own unique skin by pushing the boundaries of a raw material. Micaceous clay permitted McHorse to build thin-walled structures that could withstand high temperatures, yielding a black satiny finish. The darkness of the fired clay provides a dramatic contrast to the tiny bits of reflective mica, glistening as light dances across each piece. Using light gradation as her palette, McHorse controlled the presence of light by creating differently textured surfaces that either catch or reflect the light. When combined with the elegance of each sculpture’s form, the element of light in McHorse’s works renders a captivating visual experience.
McHorse was born 1948 in Morenci, Arizona. She studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts from 1963-1968. McHorse received numerous awards from the SWAIA Indian Market and the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial as well as Museum of Northern Arizona. Her work is included in the collections of the Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, NM; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX; The Nelson-Adkins Museum, Kansas City, MO.