Dark Light: the Micaceous Ceramics of Christine
February 6, 2014 — May 11, 2014
In the Main Gallery
Friday, February 7, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
5:30 – Artist Talk by Adrian Esparza
6:00 – Artist Talk by Christine Nofchissey McHorse
The opening will also feature Spectra: Work by Adrian Esparza in the Front Gallery. Open studios by current resident artists to follow talks.
In Dark Light: The Micaceous Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) presents works by one of the most innovative contemporary forces in Native American pottery. Working from traditional materials and techniques, Christine Nofchissey McHorse’s vessel-based art blends the boundaries of pottery and sculpture, erasing the line between function and form. As the Navajo artist’s first traveling exhibition, the show exhibits the unadorned sophistication of the sultry curves, black satiny surfaces, and modern forms of her Dark Light series, created from 1997 to present. An amalgam of Puebloan, Navajo, and contemporary influences, each sculpture possesses a cultural splendor that is as fertile as the Northern New Mexico riverbeds where McHorse harvests her clay.
Through the unadulterated beauty of micaceous clay and with Puebloan construction techniques learned from her Taos mother-in-law, McHorse transforms 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 returns to primordial shapes, akin to the modern aesthetic of Henri Moore. Experimenting with shape, mass, volume, and line, she creates organic vessels in the vein of her ancestors, who recognized the spiritual power of water, air, and earth.
To complement her natural forms, McHorse gives each piece its own unique skin by pushing the boundaries of a raw material. Traditionally used for cookware and valued for its structural integrity, micaceous clay permits McHorse to build thin-walled structures that can 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 controls 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.
Dark Light: The Micaceous Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse is organized by The Ceramic Arts Foundation, New York, NY, and curated by Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio.
Born in Morenci, AZ, in 1948, Christine Nofchissey McHorse is a first generation, full-blooded Navajo ceramic artist. After marrying Joel McHorse, a Taos Pueblo Indian, she learned to make pots through his grandmother, Lena Archuleta, who taught her to work with micaceous clay, a rare but naturally occurring clay high in mica content that can be found in the Taos area. McHorse has since become one of the most admired and successful Native potters, working with traditional techniques but making the kind of reductive, sculptural pots that one would have expected Brancusi to make, were he alive today.
From 1963 – 1968, McHorse studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, where her studio is now located. She has received numerous awards from the SWAIA Indian Market, Santa Fe, and the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, Gallup, as well as the Museum of Northern Arizona. Her works are in the collections of the Denver Museum of Natural History, the Museum of New Mexico, the National Museum of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution, the Navajo Nation Museum, and the Rockwell Museum of Western Art. McHorse also has the unique distinction of winning Best in Show for both pottery and sculpture at the annual Santa Fe Indian Market.
Above: (1) Christine Nofchissey McHorse, “Black Swan,” 2006. Micaceous clay. 17.5” x 9.” Collection of Bill and Sara Morgan. Photo by Addison Doty Photography. (2) Christine Nofchissey McHorse, “Black Swan” (detail), 2006. Micaceous clay. 17.5” x 9.” Collection of Bill and Sara Morgan. Photo by Addison Doty Photography. (3) Christine Nofchissey McHorse, “Spine,” 2010. Micaceous clay. 17.25” x 13.” Collection of Barbara & Bill Weldon. Photo by Addison Doty Photography. (4) Christine Nofchissey McHorse, “Spine” (detail), 2010. Micaceous clay. 17.25” x 13.” Collection of Barbara & Bill Weldon. Photo by Addison Doty Photography. (5) Christine Nofchissey McHorse, “Spontaneous Combustion,” 2011. Micaceous clay. 15” x 10.” Collection of Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino. Photo by Addison Doty Photography. (6) Christine Nofchissey McHorse, “Spontaneous Combustion” (detail), 2011. Micaceous clay. 15” x 10.” Collection of Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino. Photo by Addison Doty Photography. (7) Christine Nofchissey McHorse, “Nautilus,” 2006. Micaceous clay. 18.5” x 10.5.” Collection of Garth Clark & Mark Del Vecchio, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Photo by Addison Doty Photography.