There is a feather inside the jar, which I assume was inserted by Nathan. Feathers carry prayers for the Hopi and incorporating a feather into this pot gives the maiden spiritual energy as she sings her chant. I imagine her song a praise of of the spirits that bring blessings.
I have become particularly enamoured of Nathan’s pottery since buying my first piece six years ago. The order in which I purchased the nine Nathan Begaye pieces in this collection, however, does not reflect the order in which they were produced. It is instructive to reorganize this pottery into the sequence in which they were produced:
Name Catalogue number Date produced
Red slip pot 2013-01 about 1973
Star jar 2018-10 10-30-86
Moon face canteen 2017-06 1-25-94
Maiden effigy pot 2019-20 12-5-97
Lizard/toad pot 2014-04 1-16-00
Shard pot 2013-10 6-14-00
Incised canteen 2013-09 1-25-02
Tawa plaque 2017-07 2005
Nude male bowl 2015-02 9-5-06
I see three periods of production here.
First, the red slip pot (about 1973) is extraordinary because of its size, bulbous shape, thinness, dramatic red color and its Sikyatki-inspired but innovative design. Very few Hopi or Hopi-Tewa potters can do work this fine. That it was done by a boy in his early adolescence is unnerving. Its Sikyatki style is the most traditional among the Begaye pots.
The second category of pots, from 1986 through 2002, contains 6 of the 9 pots in this collection and represents Nathan using his full creative power. Each of the five pots has a unique form or design that could not have been predicted from the other four pots in this group.
The final group of two pots have a sadness and poignancy about them that is not apparent in his earlier work. These are among the last pots Nathan created before he stopped potting several years before his death in 2010. While the Tawa plaque is full of blessing and seems to incorporate the artist into this vision of hope, the note that Nathan wrote to acompany the plaque is full of bitterness and dispair. Finally I read a similar message of personal dispair into the image of the nude, truncated male Native on the 2006 bowl. For me this image is the emotional equivalent at looking at Emile Serate’s painting of a freshly butchered cow.Purchase History:
For many years I had seen this maiden effigy on Steve Elmore's website. Often it was in his home and not his store; once he brought it from home to the store for me to see. We bargained about the price for several years until I saw it in his hop on 10/7/19 and bought it by phone the next day. When zasked about the provenance, he wrote: "I purchased this fine effigy figure by Nathan Begay from a RG Munn auction in Aluquerque in the early 2000s. I kept it in my private collection for many years before offering it in the gallery . I was told at the time by Mark Alvord of RG Munn that the piece had been purchased directly from Nathan by a Scottsdale Indian Shop that had recently gone out of business."