The Shelburne Museum, best known regionally for its extensive collection of American arts from the last two centuries, is about to redefine the very term American by establishing an important home for Indigenous art as part of its Native American Initiative. “Built From the Earth: Pueblo Pottery from the Anthony and Teressa Perry Collection,” currently on view at the Shelburne, is the first glimpse into the vast collection from the Museum’s own holdings as well as the addition of more than 240 examples from the Perry Collection recently donated to the Museum.
The exhibit consists of 23 large-scale water jars, dough bowls and grain vessels, all from the Southwest, mostly from communities in New Mexico. Unique to this exhibit is the active involvement of members from the eight tribes represented, who worked with Museum staff and the curator to contextualize the examples on display. For example, many pieces attributed to these communities were previously identified by Spanish terms and are now, in this exhibit, referenced by their Indigenous tribal names. Likewise, the term ‘anonymous’ is not used. Instead, the pieces areidentified by ‘maker,’ to clarify that the pottery was made for everyday use, not as artistic endeavor, and to identify the specific community where it was produced.