First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 76

PROFILE JEMEZ CERAMIC SCULPTOR AND PAINTER KATHLEEN WALL By RoseMary Diaz K ATHLEEN WALL was born into a family of renowned Jemez Pueblo artists. Her first lessons in ceramic sculpting came from her mother, Fannie Loretto (Jemez-Laguna). She was inspired by the legacy of her grandmother Carrie Loretto and aunts Alma Concha, Edna Coriz, Mary Toya, and Dorothy Trujillo, who taught her how to hand-coil the locally gathered and processed clay to form bowls, vases, pots, and figurines. Wall’s brothers, Adrian Wall and Marcus Wall, are sculptors, known respectively for work in stone and clay. Their father, Stephen Wall (White Earth Ojibwe-Seneca), is also a well-known sculptor and educator. For the first five years of her career, between the ages of 15 and 19, Wall focused on making the familiar storyteller dolls, which were popularized by Cochiti and Jemez Pueblo artists in the mid-20th century. Ever since those early creative endeavors, Wall has dedicated her artistic life to the clay. “I’ve been a full-time artist for 30 years! It’s all I’ve ever done,” she says. “I’ve never gotten a regular paycheck. I had to figure it out—how to survive as an artist.” Over three decades, Wall has not only figured out the formula for surviving as an artist but has honed it to perfection. She has taken top awards at Native America’s most important art markets, including Eiteljorg Museum Indian Market and Festival, SWAIA’s Santa Fe Indian Market, Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market, and Santa Fe’s Museum of Indian Arts and Culture’s Native Treasures. Among Wall’s many career high- lights are a School for Advanced Research’s Eric and Barbara Dobkin Native Artist Fellowship for Women in 2016, a best-of- show win at Eiteljorg in 2016, and first place in clay sculpture at Indian Market in 2017. Celebrating Native Legacies: Works in Clay by Kathleen Wall of Jemez Pueblo (2007–10), at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, was a major milestone for the artist: “It was my first solo exhibition!” This was followed by a 2014 solo exhibition at the Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts in Santa Fe, Harvesting Traditions, in which Wall explored Indigenous foodways of numerous tribes through ceramic sculp- tures and paintings on canvas. In the last few years, Wall has moved in new directions. She returned to college and earned her BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). Her professor there, Linda Lomahaftewa (Hopi-Choctaw), says, “I admire what Kathleen is doing. The way she combines it all, the 3D ceramics and the 2D paint- ings, really works. Anyone can talk about it but she did it. I still support her, and I’m anxious to see how her work evolves from here.” Wall’s expressive clay figures (including her well-known amusing and lovable koshares, or sacred clowns), once backdropped by paintings of landscapes, 74 | WWW.FIRSTAMERICANARTMAGAZINE.COM are now part of the paintings. The figures seem to walk right out of the canvas, suspended in both space and time. When speaking about her artistic innovations, the artist reflects that experimenting with new media “is what I need to keep me excited about creating. Whenever I work in a new [medium], I feel like a brand-new artist.” Widely collected internationally, Wall’s art is the subject of many magazine articles and books and has been a main feature at Gallery Chaco in Old Town Albuquerque since its opening almost two years ago. There, longtime collectors continue to support her creative vision and offer some down-to-earth gestures of friendship. “The owner used to buy work from me when I was super young. Now his kids run the [hotel] business, and they carry my work in the gallery. And, they hired my son to work in the gift shop. I told him, ‘You’re just lucky you’re not slinging burgers.’” Wall has three children: two sons, ages 16 and 10, and a daughter, 14. “Are any of your kids following in your foot- steps or showing interest in pursuing careers as artists?” I inquire. “My oldest is a musician, and my daughter is talented in sculpting,” says Wall. “My little one is only ten, so not yet. But we’ll see. There’s still plenty of time.” During her own childhood, Wall said she was “all over the place. We moved a lot—from New Mexico to Arizona to Colorado, then back to New Mexico.” Eventually she settled in Jemez Pueblo, where she has built a large, light-filled studio on a piece of property given to her by her grandfather. “For the past three years, we’ve been working on finishing the studio, so things are a little crazy. One of my sons is sleeping in what will be the packing and shipping area, but we’re making it work and hopefully it’ll be finished soon!”