Hopi Pottery at the DeYoung with and without the Weiss Collection

Weiss pot at DeYoung but not in the show. My parents said this is the pot that made them study the genealogy of potters, especially Hopi.

Tony Bravo in the Pink has a blurb about a pottery show at the DeYoung, which opened a few weeks ago — as did the museum — and runs through February, 2023, or about two years. I recall Hillary Olcott and Christina Hellmich mentioning the show plans to me, and I probably referenced it in my correspondence with them.

I’m hoping to see it lickety-split. The obvious question would be: how many of the pots in the show come from my parents’ collection? Or: how many of my mother’s pots are in the show?

My parents finished with 94 examples of Hopi pottery in their collection. When my father died, we were of the belief that the DeYoung wanted the entire collection. Instead, for various reasons, the DeYoung has 75 pots from the Weisses, and we have 191 extant pots. (My sibs and I removed a small number from the gift, as agreed, although my parents had added 87 pots between the 2007 deal and the day before my dad died, on August 23, 2015. In all their collection spanned 10 pueblos, numerous styles and roughly seven generations.

The Hopi names in the Weiss Collection include Fannie Nampeyo, Nona Naha, Syliva Naha, Al Qoyawayma sometimes Al Q, Rondina Huma, Marcia Rickey, Nampeyo of Hano, Steve Lucas, Burel Naha, Dextra Quotskuyva, Elizabeth White, Frog Woman aka Pacqua, Daisy Hooee Nampeyo, Thomas Polacca, Grace Chapella, Dee Satallia, Helen Naha aka Feather Woman, Rainey Naha, Karen Abeita, Gloria Kahe, Garnet Pavatea, an unnamed potter of a polychrome canteen that is in the DeYoung Collection as of 2007, Jean Sahmie, Mark Tahbo, White Swan, Hisi Nampeyo, Agnes Nahsonhoya, Rachel Sahmie, Les Namingha, Priscilla Nampeyo, Dianna Tahbo, Jacob Koopee, Charles Lomaquaha, Annie Nampeyo also known as Annie Healing Nampeyo, Charles Navasie, Yvonne Lucas, Gloria Mahle, a second unnamed Hopi circa 1900, Carla Nampeyo, Nathan Begaye (though our files say “Hopi/Navajo”), Joy Navasie and Rachel Namingha. That’s 39 creators, all more-or-less descendent from Nampeyo of Hano. 

Tony Bravo’s brief summary of the DeYoung’s terse announcement makes the show seem more historic than living, looking back rather than, like Janus, looking both back and forward at the same time. It promises to show how the historic figure is related to today’s scene — which is thriving — but, for instance, I cannot tell if my two favorite potters, Dextra Quotskuyva and Jacob Koopee are in the show or not. 

Of a particular interest to me is whether my mom’s very favorite pot, Dextra’s “summer cloud” pot, which was in the 2001 Wheelwright show and Martha Struever’s “Painted Perfection” book is included. 

When I think about the topic of a Hopi pottery show at the DeYoung I think of my parents, Paul and Barbara Weiss, their friend Martha Struever, Dextra Quotskuyva and Jacob Koopee, all dearly departed. I’ve never seen comprenhesive obituaries or tributes to Dextra and Jacob – maybe this show will occassion both. I found a video of Marti discussing Jake. I like that she says “he fires (them) right at the edge of the cliff”. 

  1. Bravo:

‘Nampeyo and the Sikyátki Revival’

Nampeyo, famed Tewa-Hopi potter, is celebrated with an exhibition of 32 of her pots from the collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The exhibition pairs the work with examples of more traditional Hopi pottery from which she found inspiration.

Through Feb. 26, 2023.

2. Of the 16 “Nampeyo” pots searchable online from the DeYoung collection, 12 are from Paul and Barbara Weiss and four are from Thomas Weisel. The 28 pots gifted from the Weiss Trusts by my sibs and I, per our parents’ wishes and the 2007 agreement, in fall, 2019 are not included yet. Again, I am very keen to know if my mother’s favorite pot, the “summer cloud pot” by Dextra, is in this show. If I were showing a group of Nampeyo per se, I would absolutely include some Dextra and their Koopee, the one with the maidens, from the 2019 gift. 

This Koopee was on display for a while; the one we gave in 2019, with the maidens, is even better.

I actually have a photo of that shards Koopee in the gallery, from a couple years ago, and below, in Plasty, this blog.

3. Russell Hartman, of the California Academy of Sciences, on September 7, 2007, on commission by the DeYoung, wrote about the Weiss Collection that “the strength of the collection is, without doubt, the works by succeeding generations of potters who are descended from the above named individuals” (i.e. “Nampeyo, Fannie Nampeyo, Grace Chapella, and Pacqua — Frog Woman — of Hopi or Hopi-Tewa”). He wrote eight paragraphs about the Hopi in our collection “further illustrating how pottery traditions are passed through extended families and even between pueblos through inter-marriage…This collection excels in this regard”. I presume my parents’ subsequent purchases also filled in the gaps that Hartman hinted at, or to emphasize the point. Beyond the Bertrand Russell paradox, what made my parents’ collection a collection, and not just a list of names or set of objects? And is it still a collection, with part at the DeYoung, part with my family and part in storage? Is it still that collection? And what makes this show a show? 

4. In comparison, and based on the catalog or pamphlet “Pueblo Dynasties: Master Potters from Matriarchs to Contemporaries” at the Crocker Museum of Sacramento, by Scott A. Shields, PhD., 2019, of the 41 figures, six feature Hopi pottery including works by: Barbara Cerno, Nampeyo of Hano, Dextra, Mark Tahbo, Rondina Huma and Al Q. 

5. After the initial gift of 32 in 2007, we gave another 12 pots, all minis, that went straight to a specially built case in the hallway that led from the Pueblo Pottery room to the Saxe glass collection; here my Mom is seen checking out her Fannie Nampeyo pot (plus a Santa Clara, maybe the Folwells, I forget):

see also:

6. Dillingham is the obvious reference to get straight the Hopi matriarchy, although Greg Schaaf is also instructive and voluminous. Our copy of Marti’s book had autographs of a half dozen of Dextra’s family members. There’s also a binder somewhere with ribbons, clippings and a snapshot of Mom and Dextra and the summer cloud pot. 

Dextra Quotskuyva by Monty Roessel, 1996

7. The description of the show at the DeYoung website differs from Bravo’s blurb in yesterday’s March 28,2021 San Francisco Chronicle in that he states there are 32 pots by Nampeyo whereas more likely it has half Nampeyo and a handful of her descendants:

Celebrating the artistic ingenuity of Nampeyo, famed Tewa-Hopi potter, the de Young museum presents an installation of 32 pots from the collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. During her lifetime, Nampeyo (ca. 1860–1942) was, and remains today, perhaps the most renowned potter from the American Southwest. The single-gallery exhibition highlights Nampeyo’s work, juxtaposed with examples of Hopi pottery from her time. Exquisite ceramics made by ancestral Hopi artists demonstrate Nampeyo’s sources of inspiration, and artworks by four generations of her descendants attest to the master potter’s enduring legacy. In theory there could be a show with Hopi pots and especially Dextra’s influence from the DeYoung, the Crocker and the Weiss Collection. 

Jacob Koopee, 2005

Koopee, 2011; courtesy of the Struevers

Here is a “sweded” version of the photo of Dextra and Barbara Weiss, and what I consider the world’s best single piece of ceramics, which is the keystone to their entire collection, and their 20 years engaged in this business, which was done honorably and in deference to , awe of or fully respecting the people who made these works, with their hands and hearts:

edit to add: I just looked it up: 12 of the 28 pots that the DeYoung finally took from the Collection were Hopi. So I guess you could do a show with just gifts of Paul and Barbara Weiss and Thom Weisel and get to 32 “Nampeyo and Friends” works. Duly noted that of the two unnamed Hopi canteens in the database above, one is from the Weisses and one from the DeYoungs themselves, in 1899. Overall, my parents felt that their relationship with the DeYoung, even with the changing cast, was a blessing. 

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player, and blogger; he also sang in local choir, fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32 Reads 'Howl' and owns a couple musical instruments he cannot play
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