August 26, 2006

The pottery-comics connection

Chuck Rozanski, owner of Mile High Comics, describes his purchase of a bowl in Santa Fe's Indian Marketplace:As an illustration of my buy-it-when-you-can philosophy, pictured to the right you will see Nanette holding a large bowl with a cartoon painted inside. It may seem hard to believe, but under normal circumstances this bowl retails for $7,000.00! If you can find one for sale....The bowl was formed and painted by Diego Romero from Cochiti Pueblo, arguable one of the top ten Pueblo artists working today. Diego (and his brother Mateo, who is a brilliant painter) grew up in Berkeley, CA, where they both became addicted to comics, and comics art, during the 1970's, in the world-famous COMICS & COMIX Telegraph Avenue store. Upon his eventual return to Pueblo life Diego became extremely politicized, and began creating overtly controversial pots featuring graphic illustrations of Spanish conquistadors and priests physically abusing Pueblo people during the 1600's. While nothing that Diego was painting in his bowls was anything but a true representation of what happened prior to the Pueblo revolt of 1680 (the first real "Independence Day" in American history), the enslavement and murder of the Pueblo people is a topic simply not freely discussed in New Mexico. The current younger generation of Pueblo creators is actively tearing away the obscuring curtains of time, however, and making a real issue of the fact that the Native Americans of New Mexico were incredibly ill-treated. The same could, of course, be said by indigenous peoples who found their lands colonized by a more technologically advanced societies from Brazil to Siberia, but Diego Romero is the one Pueblo potter who has chosen to conjoin graphic storytelling and traditional pottery in such an overt political fashion.

In case you're wondering, I've been relating this story of the Diego Romero bowl for you in such detail because I think that this particular piece illustrates the very broad bridge that exists between comics and Pueblo pottery. When we had a couple of quiet moments together I quizzed Diego about the artists who influenced him, and he rattled off the usual big names, such as Kirby, Ditko, Barry Smith, Jim Steranko, et al. I thought I saw something in his art a bit different from those traditionalists, however, so brought up Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. Bingo! Diego said that he loved Gilbert's artwork, and that he was the major influence in his graphics. Jaime fulfills the same inspirational role in his storytelling. Cool!

No comments: