The sgraffito technique of etching detailed designs into layers of clay has appeared in the world of ceramics and pottery since the 16th century. These intricate carvings can be seen in many styles of Southwestern Native American pottery. Jennifer Moquino, of Santa Clara Pueblo, has recently introduced a new direction on the traditional black, red and polychrome pottery that has been created for generations by Santa Clara Pueblo. Moquino’s love for East-Asian art and popular culture has inspired her to create something new and exciting, blending Native American pottery with Japanese anime and manga.
One of her most recent pieces is a tile with the detailed carving of a creature that combines the image of a water serpent and the Chinese dragon, which both have similar symbolic significance in cultures across the East and the West. The creature on the tile is holding back the storm clouds hanging from above and the waves crashing down below. “There’s a story here about the water serpent that saved Santa Clara from a flood a long, long time ago,” recalls Moquino. “The story stuck with me and I wanted to try to create a piece that portrays this in visual form.” The end result is a powerful piece, tying elements from Santa Clara’s past and Asian mythology.
Another piece from Moquno’s latest work depicts the image of two “chibi”, or small, pueblo girls dressed in traditional Native American attire with charismatic anime expressions. The tile is a cheerful scene of one girl widely grinning while the other holds up the peace sign with her hand. “I noticed that most anime and manga portray Native Americans as half-naked, stoic people,” Moquino says as she giggles. This tile represents a more realistic and uplifting interpretation of the pueblo people, while staying consistent with the style of Japanese manga.
Over the past five years, Jennifer Moquino has been integrating Asian styles of art within her work, but it wasn’t until this past year that she began incorporating one of her favorite pastimes, Japanese anime. Moquino’s talent and passion for combining art and culture has seamlessly brought forth an innovative style of contemporary Native American pottery. The abovementioned tiles and other stunning pieces can be seen at Blue Rain Gallery’s Annual Celebration of Contemporary Native American Art, August 19 - 23, 2015.