While Mother and I were in Ruidoso as I wrote my dissertation, we took a break one day to visit the Art Loop Tour in the surrounding area. New Mexico is home to many talented artists, including painters, textile weavers, ceramics artists, sculptors, and metalworkers. We had stopped at one location on the tour–the studio workshop of Susan Weir Ancker, where I fell in love with this pitcher. Of her work making ceramic sculpture and ‘functional pots’, Ms Weir Ancker said her focus was to
…deal with the struggles and the joys in living a mindful, productive, and satisfying life.
As I picked up the pitcher, examined it, studied on what it was saying to me that I wanted it so, Mother exclaimed, “Why, she is naked!” Now my mother was not at all a prude, having grown up on a farm and also having been a social worker who heard and saw any number of things during her work, but for some reason, she was taken aback at the nude woman on the pitcher. I just replied that indeed, she was naked.
The opposite side of the pitcher had a slightly different version, although it is the other side that most captured my imagination. It sat on my mantel in Texas, next to a prized piece of art work from South African Alphen Ntambane that I brought home in 2002. The two seemed to compliment each other as Ntambane’s work often featured a scene from a township, rendered in delicate watercolors of everyday life with a texture that appealed to me. The watercolor also features shades of aqua and brown as predominant colors.
On occasion, I use this earth mother woman to hold flowers–historically, white gladiolas, but I tend to fill her uplifted arms with white blooms of any kind, dependent on what is available. Out of curiosity just now, I looked up Ms Weir Ancker. She is still occupying her Swan Studios workshop at Capitan, Lincoln County, New Mexico. Her work is exhibited in many area galleries. She looks much as I recall her from my visit, albeit more than 20 years older, as am I. Although there was nothing that resembled this pitcher in her visible art work, there were many pieces that indicated her work is still primarily that of woman in her many different forms. The subject was different, but I did spy a pitcher in this same shape on a shelf in one of the photographs, and some of her other work illustrates that while her work has evolved as she has, it still bears the essence of why I fell in love with this piece those years ago.
And yes, Mom, she is still naked…on both sides. I miss those times with her, but I carry her gifts with me always.