Opulent · Mata Ortiz Pottery, and works by Diego Romero

Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, in northern Mexico, has been described as a "small village where magic happens every day." Approximately 450 potters live there, producing technically superb and visually compelling pottery that has gained both national and international attention. The originator of the Mata Ortiz movement, Juan Quezada, received Mexico's Premio Nacional de Artes y Ciencias in 1999, the first northerner to be honored with this national prize. Pottery from Mata Ortiz is noted for its extremely thin walls, masterful proportions and meticulous decoration-aesthetics that account for its growing popularity.

This small town, however, has become a center of creative production only within the past three decades, owing to the curiosity, perseverance and art of Juan Quezada. In the late 1960s, Quezada began investigating the creation of an original ceramic process, experimenting with fire, clay deposits buried deep in the mountain, minerals ground into pigments, and paintbrushes made from the hair of his children. The creative journey of this one man profoundly affected a small town and the people in it.

In the past decade, the Mata Ortiz pottery movement has burst onto the national and international art scenes. The town now boasts second- and third-generation potters who are shaping the Mata Ortiz movement in their own creative and diverse directions. This movement has enabled families to remain together in a region where many living in rural or urban areas are forced to cross the border illegally to look for work or spend long hours working in low-paying factory jobs. The movement is also responsible for the emergence of pride not only within what was once a desolate town with no economic basis but also within the state of Chihuahua, where newspaper headlines now read "Juan Quezada: The Pride of Chihuahua." For northern Mexico, so long excluded from the canon of visual culture, the movement is a stunning example of artistic prowess. Mata Ortiz, located near the border region, an area usually racked with the harsh realities of drug trafficking and the challenges of constant cross-cultural contact, now offers the area a beautiful and stoic manifestation of human ability.

The artists in Mata Ortiz, some of the finest of whom are represented in this exhibition, have created countless unique styles through constant innovation and experimentation. The tale of this small town and the art it produces will continue. The complexities and the beauty of its pottery, and the fascinating stories that are yet to be written, will comprise one of the most remarkable ceramic art movements in history.
-Laura Widmar, Director of Owings-Dewey Fine Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Also on view at the Gallery of Art are eight bowls by Diego Romero. Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Diego Romero moved to the Cochiti Pueblo north of Albuquerque, New Mexico, after graduating from college. His mother is Anglo-American, his father is a painter from Cochiti, and his grandmother was a Cochiti potter. Romero earned an MFA in 1993 from UCLA and a BFA, Otis Parsons School of Design, Los Angeles.