Painting the Underworld Sky
By Mateo RomeroThe plaza at dawn...the drum beats from inside the kiva...pinon smoke rises into the air...men chanting tewa verses....
Dancers emerge from the doorway...deer bouncing impatiently...buffalo striding forward in structured lines... male to female, old to young...
Singers with sacred paint on there faces drumming... low drumbeats rumbling... the dance begins....
It is ceremony.
This room is structured around several fundamental elements of Rio Grande Pueblo dance culture. In its most basic form, the red base element that runs around the room is a reference to the dance practice houses in the village. The line elements between the red and buff color on the wall reference lines on pottery rims.
The large graphic brown forms on the walks are modern interpretations of historic Keres pottery designs...bee weed plant, rain clouds, dragonfly’s, etc. They function as design elements in a classic pueblo pot border/panel arrangement with repetition of motif.
Arranged between these graphic designs are the dancer paintings. Deer, Eagle, Feast Day dancers are painted with vibrant color and active surface texture to display emotion, spirituality, transcendence.
It is my hope that through all of these elements brought together here that the viewer experiences a visual connection with these nuanced aspects of the dance. If we listen closely in the room we can hear the faint drum beats...smell the pinon smoke...hear the men chanting verses as the dancers emerge into the plaza.
About Mateo RomeroContemporary Pueblo painter Mateo Romero was born and raised in Berkeley, California. Although his cultural background is an urban one, through his father Santiago Romero and his connection to their Southern Keresan Cochiti people, this experience includes much of the Rio Grande Pueblo world as well. Mateo attended Dartmouth College and studied with acclaimed artists Ben Frank Moss and Varujan Boghosian.
He received an MFA in printmaking from the University of New Mexico. Mateo is an award-winning artist who has exhibited internationally in Canada and in the United States. He is a former Dubin Fellow in painting at the School of American Research in Santa Fe, NM. In 2016 he received a prestigious Native Arts and Culture artists award. He paints in his studio in Santa Fe and lives in Pojoaque Pueblo with his wife, Melissa, and their children Rain and River.
Learn more at towa-artists.com.
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