Rachael Sahmie NampeyoDimensions:
15.625" h X 11.625” w
(15.625″ h X 11.625” w with a 3.875” base and a 4.625” mouth)
This pot is monumental, both in size and in the dramatic energy of its imagery.
The unusual shape amplifies these effects. At its widest point the jar is exactly three times the width of its base. The mouth of the jar is about 20% wider than the base. This is a massive pot with a dramatic design, but given its relative proportions, it seems to float of its base—sort of like a huge ballet dancer. And, like that dancer, it is perfectly symmetrical and balanced. In a phone conversation, Rachel told me that she adapted the shape from an ancient pot she saw in a photograph.
Here the narrow base of the pot works as an extension of the neck painted on the major surface of the pot. The image is of Palhik Mana (“Water Woman”) who is not a Katchina but dances in a variety of ceremonies design to encourage rain. The design has the same elements as the Palhik Mana image Nampeyo used on her piki bowl (2009-17) made about 120 years earlier. On both pots, headdress elements over the ears and the elements positioned directly above the head are basically triangular. On Rachel’s pot, much of the design in these three sections is done with red paint with black stepped cloud elements drawn in the interior.
Interspersed between these triangular designs are two curvilinear patterns done entirely in red and emerging from the red elements of the triangular designs. On the Nampeyo bowl these are delicate and modest. On the Rachel bowl, they also curvilinear but are large and dramatic. One part of this design points directly away from the center of the face, the other two arc, one almost to the bottom of the kopatsoki (tablita), the other to the top such that these red curved elements encircle the kopatsoki and dominate the design.
As on the Nampeyo bowl, the face of the Palhik Mana on jar 2012-01 has arched spotted areas over slit eyes, and a “Darth Vader” mouth formed of alternating red and white triangles. Both pots have fir twigs hanging from the bottom of the headdress. The Nampeyo design had red dots marking her cheeks. The Rachel image has red triangles marking this area (as does the cornmeal pot 2012-05 which is also painted with a Palhik Mana). Both cheek designs are commonly seen on this dancer as are the turquoise mosaic earrings painted by Rachel. Above the eyes on 2012-01 is an area of cross-hatching with black pointed images on either side. These represent the corn with emerging feathers—the same motif that figures so prominently on cornmeal bowl 2012-05.
Whereas Nampeyo often used red to integrate the different elements of her design, Rachel has reversed this pattern on jar 2012-01. Small areas of the image in the center and on the periphery are black; everything else is painted red. Black, not red, is used to pull together the design elements into a single image, but the technique is the same as that used by the “Old Lady.” Because of its size and fiery color, the design on 2012-01 is both startling and dramatic. Moreover, the pot is well blushed from the outdoor firing and this rich golden color (darker on one side than the other) reinforces the image. Rachel told me that she particularly liked the side of the jar that fired darker. “It seems to me that she [the Palhik Mana] is dancing out of the sunrise,” Rachel said.
The pot is signed “Nampeyo Koo-Loo” (Nampeyo Corn Clan) on the bottom with Rachel’s initial “R” scratched into the surface.Purchase History:
Jar 2012-01 was first offered on eBay by C&D Gifts of Albuquerque. [Listing on file.] I saved it in my “favorites,” but did not bid on the pot given the high asking price. Rachel called by and asked if I had seen the listing. I told her I had, but that the price was too high for me at the moment. The original listing received no offers and C&D re-listed it with its price reduced one penny. Rachel then called me back and told me the pot was with the listing agents “on consignment” and that she was on her way to Albuquerque to pick it up. She asked if I was interested in it and named her price, which I accepted. She mailed 2012-01 that day from Albuquerque; I was able to deposit the funds directly into her bank account.