Les is the grandson of Rachel Namingha, Nampeyo’s granddaughter. His father, Emerson Namingha Jr., is the younger brother of Priscilla , Lillian, Ruth, Elanor and Dextra. (See the Artist List for pots by these sisters.) Emerson married a Zuni woman and Les grew up at Zuni and also married a Zuni woman, Jocelyn. Although not Hopi by a matriarchal line of descent, Les was taught pottery making by his Aunt Dextra, who also taught her daughter Camille and nephew Steve Lucas. Les studied design at Brigham Young University and began producing pottery in the early 1990s.
Until the 21st century Les used Hopi clay and Hopi clay, traditional painting techniques and fired outdoors with a dung fire (see 1994-09). Pot 2007-04 is decorated with a complex swirl of elements that, like an elegant doodle, form no overall pattern but somehow fit together on the pot. Some of the forms reflect traditional Hopi design elements while others are more modernist influences. Like his great-great grandmother Nampeyo, Les has used negative undecorated space to frame his design. On the lower third of the pot and hidden from easy view is a shallow excavated area that Les has colored red.
On October 9, 2009 I spoke with Les in the Blue Rain Gallery, Santa Fe, about this pot. He explained that the excavated area was probably carved when he was sanding the pot and found a bubble. He carved out this weak area and incorporated it into his design. I have been told that in the future Les intends to focus on painting on canvas. One can imagine the design on this pot as an abstract painting simply draped over a clay pot.
During the late 1990’s Les combined traditional Hopi-Tewa designs with more spontaneous elements (see 2020-02). More recent work utilizes acrylic as opposed to the traditional clay slips.