July 24, 2024


Art Is Experience

Introduction to American Indian Artist Virgil Ortiz

Virgil Ortiz is a nationally renowned American Indian artist from Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico. He works in a variety of mediums from pottery to fashion design, home furnishings to comic books, and even movie production. All of his creations are bold and exciting while still providing insightful social commentary.

The true heart of Virgil’s artistry is in his pottery. From a celebrated family of Cochiti potters including mother Seferina Ortiz, 40 year old Virgil began working with clay at the age of 6. Virgil is probably best known for his edgy pottery figures, his contemporary take on traditional Cochiti pottery figures from the late 1800’s called monos. Back in the late 19th century when the Cochiti began to come into more frequent contact with non-Native outsiders, they created these monos as a mockery of all that was strange about the non-Natives, for accentuated features like large mouths are quite common in the figures. Virgil, of course, has taken his own figures many steps further in a courageous sometimes shocking direction as seen by this recent Virgil Ortiz figure.

Besides his figures, Ortiz also creates pottery jars right in his Cochiti studio. His jars have gorgeous paintings, often times of Native American male and female characters. These characters, in fact, are a common thread throughout his work. The female depicted on a Virgil Ortiz jar, for example, might also be on one of Virgil’s tee shirts or in a comic book. Despite being at the core of his art, Virgil’s pottery is still rare. He creates no more than 20 per year.

Knowing that art and culture so often go hand in hand, Virgil Ortiz has worked hard to energizing the Cochiti Pueblo artistic tradition. He’s even established a non-profit dedicated to keep the native tongue alive among Cochiti children with talk of producing a video game that utilizes the Cochiti language.