Ancient Forms, Modern Minds: Contemporary Cherokee Ceramics

Friday, March 23 - Sunday, October 14, 2012


Celebrating both tradition and contemporary innovation in one of the oldest, ongoing ceramic traditions in the world, Ancient Forms, Modern Minds: Contemporary Cherokee Ceramics focuses on the works of 11 contemporary Cherokee potters.

Originating in Western North Carolina nearly 3,000 years ago, the pottery of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians initially consisted of large, thin-walled waterproof pots stamped with geometric designs. In this exhibition, Bernadine George’s Water Jug (2011), Two Handled Pot (2011) and Fluted Pot (2011) provide excellent examples of stamped works.

During the early 20th century, potters turned to a thick pottery, termed “blackware” and began incising decoration on the works. This so-called “traditional” style was inspired by the Catawba, Pueblo and Navajo Indian tribes. After more than a century spent working in this style, many potters refer to this as the “traditional style”. An example of the incising technique can be seen in Davy Arch’s Gumby Pot (ca 2005).

Utilizing contemporary techniques, Cherokee potters also produce glazed and decorated ceramic works, many of which are adorned with Cherokee syllabary, and other Cherokee symbols or forms drawn from popular culture. By featuring historical techniques, such as incising and stamping, alongside works that have been hand-built or thrown on a wheel, this exhibition links ancient forms with the modern techniques of contemporary Cherokee ceramists.

This exhibition was organized and curated by the Asheville Art Museum. Ancient Forms, Modern Minds is sponsored in part by RTCAR, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, North Carolina State University and the Judy Appleton Memorial Fund. Ancient Forms, Modern Minds will travel to additional museums and institutions across the country.


View selected works in the exhibition »