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  • Meg Ubel

New on View: Earth Resonance

There are a number of striking new works in G259 in the Americas galleries. One imposing sculpture stands out: an abstracted human figure standing over 7 feet tall, with an erect posture and uplifted face. This is Groundbeing: Resonance, by artist Rose B. Simpson.

Groundbeing Resonance, 2018 • Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo)

Clay, glaze, twine, steel

The Mary Ruth Weisel Endowment for Africa, Oceania, and the Americas and Gifts of funds from Mary and Bob Mersky, and Mary and Paul Reyelts, 2022.48

Here we see a being that is connected to the earth: Made of unglazed orange-brown clay that Simpson harvests herself, it reflects the characteristic color of the Southwest landscape that is home to the Pueblo people. From the limbless figure’s shoulders, twine strung with clay beads dangles to the ground. The verticality of the work is emphasized by the traditional Santa Clara Pueblo water vessel extending up from the head and the vertical cream-and-black glazed lines covering the limbless body. Twine is also stretched over two cavities in the midsection, reminiscent of a stringed instrument. The title refers to “resonance,” and Simpson asks us to consider: “How do we listen to the subtle sounds and vibrations of our Mother Earth, and how can we attune ourselves to the world around us?”—in short, reestablishing our connection to the natural world.

Simpson is a native of Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico and lives there today. She was born into a long line of clay artists (over 70 generations, she says), and has been around that earthy material her whole life. Simpson chooses to work in clay as a link to her family line while also fulfilling her interest in sustainability—as she says, “to take what’s there and make it into something.” A large part of her practice is making hand-shaped, semi-abstracted androgynous clay figures incorporating found and manufactured objects. The process of making these figures involves a personal journey of self-exploration, whether it be psychological, spiritual, or practical. As she describes it: “The work offers me a reflection of what’s possible, and I make it and I visualize it and then it becomes … a thing.” She hopes to challenge ideas and habits she’s taken for granted, or that are often unhealthy, witness what’s possible and then—by putting these sculptures into the world—help other people, too.

Rose B. Simpson sculpting

She comments that every mark on her clay figures means something, and in this case, the short vertical lines and dots signify thoughts and experiences. In addition, the number of beads or marks in a line is chosen specifically to represent something: generations or directions or months of the year.

Groundbeing: Resonance is a work that would fit into many tours, including Native American art, sculpture or ceramics, contemporary art, and themes relating to the earth or natural world. Visitors will be able to ponder meanings, make connections, and experience Simpson’s own journey to awareness.

You may be familiar already with Simpson from her work Maria, which was featured at the entrance of the Hearts of Our People special exhibition at Mia in 2019. Maria is an all-black 1985 Chevy El Camino car that she detailed with geometric motifs in the manner of traditional Santa Clara Pueblo pottery. Simpson, who is a skilled car mechanic, also modified the vehicle into a very fast lowrider. The name is an homage to Pueblo artist Maria Martinez, who revived the practice of traditional black-on-black pottery.

Maria, Lowrider, 1985 • Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo)

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