Les Namingha, Zuni-Tewa-Hopi
Les Namingha’s work is as complex as his personal experience being a Native artist inhabiting a contemporary world. His work evokes concepts of time and space as he weaves color, line, image and pattern into intricate work on structural ceramic pieces as well as the flat plane of his painted work.
His pottery embodies the traditional shapes, styles and motifs of his cultural heritage, as he maintains a strong connection to this lineage through the process of shaping and adorning his pots. Yet his intricate layering of color, shape and line in both his ceramic and painted works bridges the traditions of his Hopi/Zuni past and the experimental possibilities of the future. He is also stretching the constraints of pottery with free-form sculptural ceramic work that carries a completely modern sensibility.
The materials of his work, like his designs, are a hybrid of old and new. For some pieces he works with hand-processed clay, using river rocks to polish the surface and working with natural plant pigments to achieve the traditional earthy hues. In other work he achieves vibrant dazzling color primarily with the use of acrylic paint.
As he turns his focus from ceramics to two-dimensional painting on wood and masonite board, his process is transitioning as well. The layering effect that is a signature element of his ceramic work evolves toward the totally abstract in his paintings. The change from structural to two-dimensional work requires for Namingha a change of approach as well, reflecting a different relationship with the material. In ceramics he develops a dialogue with each piece through the process of forming it before the design element comes into play. Each ceramic creation presents a ready structure as well. In painting, there is simply an unknown expanse. To face this blankness, Namingha works to formulate a seed of an idea before sitting down in front of it.
In his current work he is influenced by the era of modernism, particularly the introduction of more graphic design elements in art. He is moving toward modernist elements as he continues to push in new directions, exploring ideas of abstraction that may or may not relate to his cultural roots.
Namingha blends the individual, traditional, and contemporary into work that speaks with a unique voice. In deconstructing indigenous design, he is finding himself in work that is both intensely personal and yet deeply evocative of his ancestral past.
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