“The thought never crossed my mind to be anything other than an artist. Art is in my blood.”
Hailing from a family of celebrated Pueblo potters, Virgil Ortiz moves into a new era combining art, décor, fashion, video and film. Ortiz’s exquisite clay works are exhibited worldwide from the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, s’Hergotenbosh Museum in The Netherlands, to Fondation Cartier in Paris, France featuring Vertigo, a 21-piece clay series acquired by the museum for their permanent collection. Born in 1969, the youngest of six children, Ortiz grew up in a creative environment in which storytelling, collecting clay, gathering wild plants, and producing figurative pottery were part of everyday life; his grandmother Laurencita Herrera and his mother, Seferina Ortiz, were both renowned Pueblo potters and part of an ongoing matrilineal heritage. “I didn’t even know it was art that was being produced while I was growing up,” he remembers. Ortiz, who works and lives in Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, has worked hard and has had a few lucky breaks that have propelled him to a preeminent place among contemporary Native artists.
After a highly successful collaboration with fashion mogul Donna Karan, which he developed boldly patterned textiles based on his graphic decorative painting, Ortiz has since launched his own fashion line. His designs are captivating, provocative, and edgy thus creating the high demand for his sharp laser-cut leather jackets, swinging taffeta skirts, cashmere sweaters and silk scarves echoing the voluminous contours and sinuous motifs of Pueblo pottery showcasing the richness of indigenous high fashion and compelling storytelling of Pueblo culture and history.
Creating and promoting a global awareness of Pueblo culture is reflected in the design components that reach past a traditional Ortiz sculpture or figurine and delve into an untapped age of décor elements that honor a rich civilization whose wealth multiplies with the skill and vision of each new generation. Ortiz recently unveiled Indigenous Imprints®, a carpet collection designed exclusively for Aqua Hospitality Carpets. Consisting of twenty unique patterns, his design concepts are a fascinating balance between contemporary and the traditional for guest rooms, corridors and public spaces in some of the most exclusive hotels and resorts worldwide. Indigenous Imprints® is a natural progression toward leading-edge furnishings and adornment that capture the elegance and spirit of Ortiz’s inspiration.
Beyond the notoriety of his artistic talent, Ortiz’s professional agenda centers on a lifelong dream to create opportunities for children in his tribal community that reflect the legacy of his ancestors. Ortiz hopes to open up his studio under the banner of the Ortiz Foundation, a nonprofit that will bring in Pueblo children during the summer months and teach them pottery, drawing, painting, fashion design and photography. “Whatever they want to learn, the sky’s the limit. I really want them to believe in themselves, and I want to help pave the road and teach them all that I’ve learned. It’s important for them to learn traditional Cochiti culture and art forms, but also to think outside the box. To live as an artist these days and compete with anyone in the larger, non-Native art world, you must have both skill and versatility.”
“It’s important to recognize that Pueblo communities are very much alive and have a level of vitality that speaks to generations of strength, persistence, brilliance, and thriving energy. I have something very important to do before I go. I want to preserve my culture and inspire our youth to accomplish whatever it is they dream to be.” – Virgil Ortiz