2019-09 Small red clay canteen with complex bird image

Object ID:
2019-09

Artist:
Sunbeam David

Dimensions:
4.0625" h X 4.75" w X 2.9375" deep

Height and width include spout and handles.

The artist drew a circle, then filled it with a monochromatic bird.  The design incorporates contrary circular motifs, which enlivens what would otherwise be a rather staid image.

Like the other pot in this collection by Sunbeam David (2010-30), this canteen is made of “sikyatska,” yellow clay that fires red.  Judging from the spout, the walls are quite thick and thus this small canteen is unexpectedly heavy.  The surface is stone polished but roughly, so striations are visible.  The back of the canteen is sloped so that the top depth of the canteen is greater than the bottom.  Thus the canteen rests at a viewing angle.

Beginning with its beak, this bird within a circle is painted in 9 segments separated by  narrow unpainted sections incorporating a single line (“two-lane highways”):

  1. First a long thin curving beak filled with stippled paint.  The edge lines of the beak intersect to form a point and then merge into the encircling line that frames the total design.
  2. A domed unpainted area enclosing a diamond with a black dot in its center, the latter representing the bird’s eye.  The residual space is solid black.
  3. An unpainted curved arrowhead.  The residual is again solid black and incorporates an intrusive curved triangle to the rear.
  4. The diagonal of the panel is a thin unpainted line.  Centered in the residual black triangles are unpainted circles.
  5. A broad unpainted stripe bisects this panel, with small black triangles at two corners of the panel. Connecting the two triangles are five wiggly lines.
  6. This panel is filled with stippled black paint, except that its rear wall supports a forward-pointing triangle that is unpainted.
  7. This panel is bisected by a thin unpainted line parallel to the body of the bird.  Above and below are single forward-pointing unpainted arrows, the top arrow wider than is companion below.  As with other segments of design, residual areas are painted black.
  8. A large unpainted dome fills most of this space, the residual (as usual) is black.  Set into the dome is a stepped pyramid, 3 steps on one side and 4 on the other, except that the pyramid is itself bisected by a vertical unpainted line.
  9. This final segment is 8 inches long, uncurled.  The wide base contains another unpainted arrow of the form we saw in panel 7 with a domed base and one curved side to fit within the body of the bird.  After about an inch, the black background narrows into a thin line that circles around itself to form a whirlpool ending in a black dot.

When observed with the spout at the top, the curved head of the bird bends in a clockwise direction before merging into the framing line, an infinity of  circular motion.  The central whirlpool element spirals in the opposite, counterclockwise, direction.  The merging of the design back into itself  and the contrary circular tensions give the design substantial tension and interest.

The design is well-painted, but not spectacular. Though talented, Sunbeam was not a very prolific potter.  What is particularly interesting is the lineage of the maker. Sunbeam David is the daughter of Lena Charlie (1998-04 and 2001-08) and the mother of Neil David Sr., a well known Kachina carver and painter.  His children are also artists.

Purchase History:
My friend Mike Starkey found this on 4-23-19 at The Blue Bird Circle, a thrift store in Houston, Texas. No other provenance is available.