Taboo is the concept of the unacceptable or forbidden. It ranges from topics we avoid in polite conversation, to that which society proscribes as outside its current social, sexual, cultural or political mores. Many actions or even social groups, which were once considered “taboo”, are now part of the mainstream. When does that which is forbidden become that which is acceptable?
Virgil Ortiz has spent a career engaging challenging themes through his provocative pottery figures and vessels. He continues a century of Cochiti Pueblo potters using their clay art as means for social commentary. Ortiz is redefining Native art through his artistry. His new works in Taboo are beautiful and at times, a bit unnerving. That’s just the way he likes it. He challenges the viewer to take in the complexity of design and form, while simultaneously processing the content. It may all be a bit taboo for Native art, but what is “cutting edge” today will certainly be the standard of tomorrow.
“Creativity come to me from continuing the story of the Cochiti people and how we see the world around us. Our art from the late 1800’s told stories of what those people were experiencing at that time. That opened the door for me to use taboo topics to engage people about today’s society, culture, politics, religion and even social media. There are so many issues that people are increasingly afraid to talk about. It’s important to show the type of imagery I’ve painted for Taboo and record it, even if people are afraid of it or it makes them uncomfortable. I want to demonstrate that Native artists can innovate while using traditional methods. We don’t have to be typecast by those by who want the same piece of pottery over and over again. It’s time to give the voice back to the clay.” Virgil Ortiz
“As kids we were required to attend catechism classes and kept trying to avoid them – we’d run away. I finally went to the class out of respect for my parents. During one of the lessons, a nun turned and hit me with a ruler for what seemed to be no apparent reason. Today, I look back and think about the silence present-day in some religious leaders who can often commit evil acts and go unpunished. Like the figures on the jar, they hide behind masks of propriety, but I hear a cacophony of voices asking to unmask them.” Virgil Ortiz