The ongoing installation, Native Artists of Western North America, spans over one thousand years of artistic expression. It encompasses diverse peoples and places and provides a glimpse of the natural, cultural, and spiritual worlds of these Native artists from western North America. The works on view reveal the aesthetic sensibilities and technical mastery of the artists who made them: potters transform the earth into clays and pigments; weavers gather fiber from plants and animals; and carvers search for trees that will yield strong, even wood that can be chiseled, shaped, and smoothed.
The installation is organized into focused groupings, facilitating an exploration of materials, styles, and diverse artistic voices. Here, we explore a grouping of ceramic bowls from the Mimbres Valley of New Mexico.
The Mimbres people lived in southwestern New Mexico during the first millennium CE. We do not know what they called themselves; the culture is named for the river valley where the distinctive bowls were first unearthed. The first settlements in the valley date to around 550, and by 1100 there were at least seventeen villages situated along the Mimbres River and its tributaries. Around 1150, a sudden and substantial shift occurred in the Southwest: the neighboring Chaco and Hohokam societies toppled, and the Mimbres culture either radically transformed or collapsed as well. Relatively little is known about these ancient artists.