DORIS BLUE & GEORGIA HARRIS' WORK FEATURED IN NEW YORK EXHIBITION: "Women designers in the USA, 1900-2000: Diversity and Differences"


Dr. Thomas Blumer

On November 15th a major exhibit examining the work of 220 women designers of the last century will open at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture in New York City. The show includes an Indian head pot by Doris Wheelock Blue and a water jar by Georgia Harris Harris.

The Bard Center's new exhibit hall is located at 18 West 86th Street in New York City. This large and carefully organized exhibition will open the new hall. The show will run from November 15, 2000 to February 25, 2001. It is a must see for those who avidly collect Catawba pottery and anyone might be in New York during this period.

In conjunction with this exhibit, the Yale University Press will publish the catalog entitled Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000: Diversity and Difference. A chapter on the work of American Indian women was written by Professor Pamela Kladzyk of the Parsons School of Design in New York City. Kladzyk's contribution is entitled "The Sacred Hoop: Native American Women Designers."

Bard's effort is of great importance to the Catawba potters. Since the revival of pottery making among the Catawba in the 1970s, the Indians have tried to take their work beyond the Carolinas. Of recent years, the potters have enjoyed some success at the Gambaro Gallery, the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery and through the Bureau of Indian Affairs Arts and Crafts shop, all in the nation's capital. In addition, a small effort was recently mounted in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Mecca for all Native American artists. One young master Catawba potter has been accepted at the Santa Fee Indian Market and is currently waiting for a booth assignment. The Bard exhibition provides a wonderful encouragement for those new generation master potters who seek recognition and are charged with training the next generation of Catawba craftsmen.

It is highly significant that the works by Doris Blue and Georgia Harris were selected for this exhibition. Both artists have left a tremendous legacy among their fellow Catawba potters and are considered very worthy of emulation by the new generation. Indeed, some of these potters proudly point to both these women as their mentor/teachers. This author has long recognized the late Georgia Harris as his professor of Catawba history and culture.

Doris Blue's vessel is no stranger to exhibition halls. It was featured in Winthrop's 1977 "Catawba Indian Pottery Exhibit and Sale." In addition, those who collect Mrs. Blue's work may wish to purchase the November 2000 issue of House Beautiful, pages 118-124. It contains a lengthy review of the Bard exhibition by Martin Filler entitled "Women's Work". Out of over 220 possible images to use for his article, Filler chose the Doris Blue vessel for special mention and illustrative of the caliber work one may enjoy by visiting the exhibition. Mrs. Blue's vessel may be found on page 121. This work is a good example of the perfection Mrs. Blue built into each and every one of her creations. Those Catawba potters who worked with Mrs. Blue like to say she did not know how to make a vessel which was not perfect in every way.

The Georgia Harris water jar also has a previous claim to fame. In 1997 it was one of the vessels considered by the National Endowment for the Arts in awarding Mrs. Harris with the only posthumous Endowment award ever given a folk artist. It is a fine example of the wonderful grace found in great master works of Catawba pottery. Mrs. Harris taught in the Pottery Class of 1976 and was a founding member of the Catawba Potters Arts and Crafts Association in 1977. She successfully encouraged her fellow potters to demand and get fair prices for their work.

Hopefully, the Bard exhibition will help open doors for the Catawba potters. The people of the Rock Hill/Charlotte area have long been acquainted with the ancient Catawba pottery tradition. It is time that others located in other parts of the country learn about South Carolina's heretofore hidden treasure.

Tom Blumer
Catawba Indian Historian