Learn about art in the Rio Grande Valley

-A A +A
By Kirsten Laskey

Like any art found throughout the world, Pueblo art covers a huge spectrum of forms. It is found in Kachina dolls, rock art, murals on kiva walls and pottery. And similar to New York City or Florence, Italy, a meca for Pueblo art is found right here in the Rio Grande Valley.

Author and Research Associate of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology of the Museum of New Mexico Polly Schaafsma will provide an oral tour of this art hot spot at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mesa Public Library. Her presentation, “Pueblo Art in the Rio Grande Valley,” will cover a time period from approximately 1370 to about 1600.

She will focus on rock art, kiva wall murals and a little bit on pottery.

Schaafsma said she is addressing this particular region, because “the Rio Grande Valley, in my opinion, is where this whole thing was highly developed.”

However, it is not well known, she added.

Perhaps that is because the Pueblos in the area are not as accessible to the public as their counter parts; for example, Schaafsma said the ceremonials in the Zuni and Hopi tribes are open to the public while the Pueblos in the Rio Grande Valley are not as visible.

“Pueblo dances are more accessible in Western Pueblos today,” Schaafsma said, “maybe that creates an inaccurate perspective of how it use to be here in the Rio Grande Valley.”

Also, she pointed out historically, the Spainards oppressed the region.

Through her presentation, Schaafsma said she hopes the audience “gets a better appreciation of the complexity of the potential it has to understand the past.”

Schaafsma herself has extensively studied this area. She is the author of many scholarly and popular books and articles including “Indian Rock Art of the Southwest,” “Rock Art in New Mexico” and “Kachinas in the Pueblo World.”

Her most recent book is “New Perspectives on Pottery Mound Pueblo.”

She explained her interest in Pueblo art was triggered early in her life. Schaafsma said she was a student at Pottery Mound site on the New Mexico’s Rio Puerco River, which ancestral Puebloan people inhabited in the last 14th and 15th  centuries.

Additionally, she has been involved in the study of rock art since the 1960s.

Schaafsma was educated at Mount Holyoke College, University of Colorado, and entered in a graduate field program in archeology at the University of New Mexico.

It is her first time speaking at the Authors Speak series.