Dark Light: The Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse
By Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio
Fresco Fine Art Publications LLC, 2013
Photography by Addison Doty
Hardcover, 110 pages. 8.75 x 12.25 inches
Fresco Fine Art Publications has won a coveted IPPY; they were awarded the Bronze Medal for Fine Art Books from the Independent Publishers association for their book Dark Light: The Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse by Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio with photography by Addison Doty. The competition was intense, with 2,050 entries. The silver medal was a tie between the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective, and Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Gold went to Artists in Love by Veronica Kavass (Welcome Books).
The book features 18 works from McHorse’s Dark Light series with a revealing photo essay by Doty on each work. This publication accompanies the touring exhibition of McHorse’s ceramics which will travel through 2016, closing at the National Museum of Indian Art in Washington, D.C.
The text by Clark and Del Vecchio examines this Navajo artist’s unique form language, a mixture of tubes and volumes that connects multiple spaces; they are part-pot, part-sculpture. The work is inspired more by nature than it is traditional Indian pottery. McHorse’s muses are early modernists and they range from Constantin Brâncuși and Antonio Gaudí to Henry Moore and Edward Weston.
What makes her achievement all the more remarkable is that this field has always been dominated by Pueblo Indians. Though she learned to make pots from her Taos mother-in-law, Lena Archuleta, McHorse was largely removed from that tradition, which has given her more freedom to defy the conventions of the field.
Archuleta taught her to work with micaceous-rich clay, which is found in abundance around Taos. Despite the clay’s great beauty and remarkable strength, it was initially a stumbling block in her career. Micaceous clay is used for cookware; it has provided the Sangre de Cristo mountain communities with flameproof wares for more than 700 years. Because of its utilitarian roots it took a long time for works in this material to be recognized in the Indian Market.
Around 1998, McHorse began to give up traditional pottery shapes such as melon bowls and wedding pots. Her forms became more and more abstract and the surfaces were a rich black, which she achieves by placing the still-hot pot into a lidded bin with leaves or sawdust. This causes the mica to shimmer on the surface (hence the Dark Light title).
The first stop for these works was the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas. Alice Thorton, of the Kansas City Star, wrote:
“The exhibit as a whole speaks to McHorse’s broad familiarity with modern sculpture, and nowhere is her kinship with artists like Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth more evident than in a trio of 2-foot-tall sculptures resembling stacked smooth rocks. These “Untitled (Spatial Concerto)” pieces are among the most recent works in the show and may bode a future direction that leaves the vessel behind entirely. Such a move would be consistent with her professed dislike of repeating herself and her ongoing effort to break new ceramics ground.”
The Ceramic Arts Foundation, CFile’s predecessor, organized the traveling exhibition as its last project and offered a $1,500 limited edition of 50 books which supports funding of the tour. The book was printed in Italy and the limited edition box was handmade near Venice. It comes with a frameable photographic print by Doty and a sterling silver pendent designed by McHorse (she was a jeweler before moving to ceramics) and produced by the award-winning Seminole jeweler, Ken Johnson. Currently, only ten of these books are still available. CAF donated a few copies of the limited edition to CFile , they will be available in CFile’s store when it opens in December. The exhibition is currently at the Frank Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Oklahoma University, Norman until January 12, 2014 and then opens at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft on Febuary 7, 2014.
Bill Rodgers is a contributing editor to CFile.
Cover of Dark Light: The Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse by Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio, 2013. The book features photographs by Addison Doty.
Installation views of Christine McHorse’s Dark Light: The Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse, 2012, at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas.
Working drawing for Christine McHorse’s Free Radical
A limited edition box set that includes Dark Light: The Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse, a photographic print by Addison Doty, and a sterling silver pendent designed by McHorse and produced by jeweler Ken Johnson. Sales of the edition support the tour of the exhibition.