Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

untitled jar
  • Nathan Begaye
    1959–2010, active 1970–2010
    born: Phoenix, Arizona, United States ; died: Tuba City, Arizona, United States ; active: United States
  • untitled jar, 2001
  • Where object was made: United States
  • ceramic, paint, slip, burnishing
  • Object Height/Diameter: 19.05 x 25.4 cm
    Object Height/Diameter: 7 1/2 x 10 in
  • Museum purchase: Peter T. Bohan Art Acquisition Fund
  • Not on display
  • 2002.0053
Label Text

White ceramic pottery jar. Squat with rounded body with a short concave neck with flaring mouth.

Exterior white slip, made by refining the same clay as the body, was stone burnished to a high sheen. Interior orange slip, stone burnished.

Design was laid out freehand with a yucca-leaf brush using black paint made by combining an organic stain (boiled down Indian spinach) and mineral pigment (ground hematite). Colored slips (refined clays) were laid into a few areas at a time and polished with a stone. After all colors were laid in, the black was repainted.

Firing: Jar placed ina saggar and fired in a barbeque grill using briquettes for fuel.

Design: Prehistoric and old Hopi design elements combined in innovative way. All the elements relate to fertility (abundance of crops).

Band around neck: Cloud ladders (saw-tooth), corn (diamonds with dots inside), geometric scroll from ancestral Hopi pottery. Pendant triangles (3 each side): corn, clouds, water (black and white checkerboard-like element found on prehistoric "Kayenta black-on-white" pottery).

Curvilinear elements (2 on opposite sides): "rainbird-like" (borrowed in ancient times by the Hopi from the Zuni) with eagle tail feathers at one end and scroll representing head/beak at opposite. Pendant are cloud triangles with rain and lightning; a single mature squash blossom and 2 unopened blossoms with attached tendrils.