Exhibit | New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs

Painted Reflections: Isomeric Design in Ancestral Pueblo Pottery

On display through Mar 12, 2023 at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

Painted Reflections emphasizes the sophisticated aesthetic qualities of Pueblo art through the study of reversible optical illusions and ambiguous figure-ground relationships.

Beginning around 900 AD, Ancestral Pueblo artists began producing new designs on their ceramics—they painted pairs of motifs called isomers, or equal forms. From a conventional perspective, these works appear as painted motifs on unpainted backgrounds. But simultaneously, they also appear as unpainted images on painted backdrops. The exhibition contextualizes isomeric design within larger artistic trends and trajectories, bridging the gaps between art history, anthropology, and archaeology, and includes examples of isomeric designs made by both ancestral and contemporary artists. 

Painted Reflections is co-curated by Joseph Traugott, Ph.D., retired curator at the New Mexico Museum of Art, Antonio R. Chavarria (Santa Clara Pueblo), Curator of Ethnology at MIAC, and Scott G. Ortman, PhD, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado—Boulder. 

The exhibition is based in-part on Painted Reflections: Isomeric design in Ancestral Pueblo Pottery, a book written by the co-curators and published by the Museum of New Mexico Press in 2018.

"The opening of Painted Reflections marks an important moment for MIAC. By presenting ancestral Pueblo pottery to the public in a fresh and nuanced way, Dr. Traugott and his team is encouraging visitors to rethink what they think they know about Pueblo art,” said Dr. Matthew Martinez, Ph.D., MIAC’s interim executive director.

Also on exhibit at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture


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