Original Painting of Gray and Black Bird


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Gerónima Cruz Montoya (1915 – 2015) P’otsúnú – White Shell

Photo source: Picture of Gerónima Cruz Montoya from the website of University of Arizona/Arizona State Museum.As a child, Gerónima Cruz Montoya (P'otsúnú) was taken from her native pueblo (Ohkay Owingeh, formerly known as San Juan Pueblo) and sent to the Santa Fe Indian School, as was the routine for all Pueblo Indian students of the time. The irony is that she hated the place at first; running away from the legacy that she would later help develop. Like many early students of the Santa Fe Indian School, she resented being taken from her pueblo to the boarding school. The tutelage of Dorothy Dunn, founder of the famous "Studio", fostered in the young girl a love of art that remained for her life.  Montoya would succeed Dunn as the director of the arts program at SFIS, and oversee it for the next quarter century, before leaving to start the San Juan Crafts Co-Op. She retired in 1973 to focus on her own art.

“My style of painting is very simple.  My subjects are mainly traditional dances, home scenes and designs.  My inspiration also come from Mimbres figures, pictographs, and petroglyphs.  I continually experiment with new forms and styles.” Shutes and Mellick 1979

Four years ago, when the gallery exhibited paintings by most of the early students of the Indian School, a friend brought Montoya to the gallery to see the exhibit.  As she stood in front of each painting, she exclaimed about the artist as a student and made statements about each. Of one artist, she said, “I had to run him out of class every day because he just wanted to work.”  Of another, she mused about how mischievous he was. She obviously remembered each student intimately and enjoyed reminiscing about those early days and early students and her memories of them were sharp and amazing. It was a pleasure to see her enjoy our exhibit and was an honor to have met her and known her for even a short couple of hours.  The art world has truly lost a Living Treasure, an award bestowed on her in 2004 by the City of Santa Fe.

This untitled painting by Geronima Montoya features a bird depicted in profile. Montoya’s bird is bold, made of thick black lines that are wide but precise.  Its one visible eye, exaggerated in size, seems to look directly at the viewer. Save for its legs and a series of lines crossing its body vertically, the bird is made entirely of gently curving forms.  It’s a skillful, charming composition that, while obviously fairly simple, could only have been created by a talented, experienced hand. Montoya’s muted palette of gray, black and white is very attractive, and certainly atypical of Pueblo paintings.  This color scheme extends to the layered mats and thin wooden frame, creating a very strong presentation from a significant figure in the history of Pueblo Indian painting.

Artist Signature - Gerónima Cruz Montoya (1915 – 2015) P’otsúnú – White ShellThe painting is signed P'otsúnú and dated ‘77 in lower right.

Condition: this Original Painting of Gray and Black Bird excellent condition

Provenance: from a client from Colorado

Recommended Reading: The Worlds of P´otsúnú: Geronima Cruz Montoya of San Juan Pueblo by Jeanne Shutes and Jill Mellic

Relative Links: Gerónima Cruz MontoyaNative American PaintingOhkay Owingeh Pueblo – San Juan Pueblo

Photo source: Picture of Gerónima Cruz Montoya from the website of University of Arizona/Arizona State Museum.

Gerónima Cruz Montoya (1915 – 2015) P’otsúnú – White Shell
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