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Making Babies for Indian Market

Arts of the Americas

Roxanne Swentzell’s work often plays on the interaction between native and non-native worlds. Here she uses clay, an ancient artistic medium, to depict a traditional Pueblo woman, whose face is much like Swentzell’s own. The woman in the sculpture looks up at the Santa Clara black pot balanced on her head, from which babies are emerging. But there is a contemporary ironic twist to what the woman is doing: is she “birthing” pots to be sold at an Indian market, or is it the baby Indians themselves that the consumer will want to buy? The work challenges the viewer to acknowledge the treatment of Native Americans as a stereotype and commodity in representations by non-natives in popular culture and advertising.
CULTURE Santa Clara
MEDIUM Clay, pigment
DATES 2004
DIMENSIONS 23 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 17 in. (59.7 x 21.6 x 43.2 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
CREDIT LINE Gift in memory of Helen Thomas Kennedy
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The sculpture is a contemporary version of the traditional storyteller figure with an ironic twist. It makes a dual statement on the production of traditional-style pottery for the Santa Fe Indian Market, for sale as well as on the Pueblo potter's desire to create something lasting for generations to come. A Pueblo woman sits with her legs and arms outstretched in front of her. The figure's face resembles Roxanne Swentzell, the artist responsible for the sculpture. Her eyes look up towards the Santa Clara black pot balanced on her head. Two babies emerge from the pot. One is shown half way out, the other with its head poking up. A third baby stands on the woman's shoulder and is reaching towards one of the babies coming from the pot. A fourth baby sits on the Pueblo woman's lap with an expression of deep contentment. Making babies and making pots are equated, perhaps to protest how indigenous people themselves and their traditions are often considered as if commodities, to be purchased by non-Native people at commercial Indian Markets throughout the Southwest. The entire piece is a tour-de-force of workmanship, a hand formed sculpture that merges two worlds, the time-honored and the modern. The entire surface of the work is highly polished and is in excellent condition.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Roxanne Swentzell (Kah'p'oo Owinge (Santa Clara Pueblo), born 1962). Making Babies for Indian Market, 2004. Clay, pigment, 23 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 17 in. (59.7 x 21.6 x 43.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift in memory of Helen Thomas Kennedy, 2004.80. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2004.80_SL3.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2004.80_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RIGHTS STATEMENT © Roxanne Swentzell
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