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The Women Potters of Mata Ortiz: Growing Empowerment through Artistic Work


Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/9822

The Women Potters of Mata Ortiz: Growing Empowerment through Artistic Work

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Title: The Women Potters of Mata Ortiz: Growing Empowerment through Artistic Work
Author: Hughes, Kiara Maureen, 1953
Advisor(s): Lamphere, Louise
Committee Member(s): Field, Les W.
Salvador, Mari Lyn
Tiano, Susan B.
Department: University of New Mexico. Dept. of Anthropology
Subject: Women and Work
Art and Anthropology
LC Subject(s): Women potters--Mexico--Mata Ortiz--Social conditions
Women potters--Mexico--Mata Ortiz--Economic conditions
Pottery, Mexican--Mexico--Mata Ortiz--Production standards
Women potters--Mexico--Mata Ortiz--Aesthetics
Social change--Mexico--Mata Ortiz
Degree Level: Doctoral
Abstract: The contemporary production of pottery for global ethnic art markets set in motion a series of economic and social transformations that completely changed the Chihuahuan community of Mata Ortíz. This dynamic art form has included women and men since its initial stages over thirty-five years ago. Today, there are women of talent and expertise represented at every level of pottery execution and quality along the market continuum. Individual creativity and market recognition work together to create a context in which both men and women are able to capacitate themselves by acquiring the skills and competence needed to gain control over their artistic work, either as independent producers or in cooperation with others. In this dissertation, I bring together three aspects of their artistic work – aesthetics, production and the market – to argue that women are able to translate resources derived from their pottery work into growing personal and economic empowerment. By infusing new levels of individual expression into this mixed-gender art form, women dramatically expand the creative boundaries of the community’s aesthetic system. Through learning and controlling major aspects of pottery production and the subsequent income from pottery sales, they are changing their social position within the community and the economic position of their families. Women seek to expand their position within the market by actively responding to client taste and market expectation to achieve economic success. Using an ethnoaesthetic approach, I engaged the women in discussions of their art, and the underpinnings of their agency were revealed as they described their perceptions of learning their art; their artistic choices and judgments; their purposeful action in creating signature styles; controlling production processes; and their interactions within the market. These discussions formed the basis for my argument that artistic work can either enlarge women’s capacities to empower themselves or deepen their subordination, depending upon the interaction between these aspects of their artistic work. While some women gained recognition, found new markets for their art and increased their incomes, others produced in response to patriarchal demands to maximize household income, and lacked control over the income derived from their labor.
Graduation Date: July 2009
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/9822

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