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Pueblo Portfolio: Regular Edition


Seven Judaic images inspired by the pottery of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico by David Moss

The images in this portfolio are two-dimensional translations of some of the paintings on pottery I have done over the past few years. Because of my long and deep connection with New Mexico, I began experimenting with some Judaic designs done in the pueblo style. I was immediately intrigued by the possibilities of blending Jewish texts and symbols with the powerful, bold graphic design of Pueblo pottery.

At first thought this may seem an odd combination, but one of the fascinating characteristics of Jewish art for millennia has been its adaptability to a vast range of visual styles. Wherever Jews lived we would freely draw on the ambient local styles. This was not only true for secular items such as household utensils, jewelry, and clothing, but for our holy objects as well. Our synagogue architecture, ritual objects, and book illumination closely reflected the regional styles. The very fact that the visual arts in Judaism have taken a relatively minor role as a means of transmission of our culture has made us very open to freely adapt vernacular artistic styles. The collections in our Jewish museums testify to this natural, almost unconscious freedom with which our artists always drew on the visual world they inhabited and adopted for sacred objects. Chanukah lamps often reflected local architecture; spice containers for Havdalah would be based on the local civic or church tower. In Italy the interiors of synagogues reflected the very latest fashions in Italian art. In Spain or Tunisia, in Poland or Iran, the synagogues would strongly reflect the local style.

Why shouldn’t an artist whose important spiritual development occurred in the mountains of northern New Mexico embrace the strong, local style that surrounded him? Working in this style began to bring together many wonderful memories for me as I began to weave together pre-viously diverse parts of my life.

My initial experiments were paintings on tiles, but one day as I was walking down a neighborhood street, I noticed some Hebron pottery planters at the nursery. Something drew me to them. I went in, bought a few, and began to use them as “canvases” for acrylic paintings in the pueblo style. Something definitely clicked for me. The pottery surface took the paint beautifully. I loved working on objects I could hold and cradle in my lap. Ideas began to flow and I painted many such pots. I also expanded into other styles as each new piece allowed for the exploration of whole new directions. I drew inspiration from a very broad range of sources as I mined and reworked other historical or folk styles. There was great joy and exhilaration in the creation of these pieces.

From early on I envisioned the possibility of translating some of my favorite designs into prints. When I first saw the deep intensity of fiat colors that could be obtained with giclée art printing, I immediately thought of this body of work and began this portfolio.

Seven Judaic images inspired by the pottery of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico
By David Moss

Contained in a “stamped” envelope.

Laid in is a letter to the governor of San Ildefonso Pueblo and this descriptive pamphlet.

The seven giclée prints are done on Epson Fine Art Textured 225 gram paper.

The production was accomplished at the Jerusalem Fine Art Prints Workshop, Israel, under the supervision of Yair Medina and the artist.

Production coordination by Paul Feinstein, Bet Alpha Editions, Berkeley.

The edition is limited to one hundred sixty two sets.

  • One hundred twenty are the standard edition bearing the numbers 1/120 to 120/120.
  • Twenty-two are the deluxe sets each of which contains an original graphic by the artist in addition to the seven prints.
    These bear the Hebrew numbers aleph:kaph-bet to kaph-bet: kaph-kaph-bet.
  • Fifteen are artist proofs with the designation AP.
  • Five are out-of-the-edition samples reserved for the craftspeople who produced the portfolio and are marked HC.

In addition to the sets, there are 120 copies of each print made to be offered separately. These bear the Roman numberals I/CXX to CXX/CXX.

This portfolio is dedicated to our dear daughter, Jackie, the first child in our family
in 1914 years native-born in our land.

Images and all texts © 2006 by David Moss.
All rights reserved.

Mr. John Gonzales, Governor
San Ildefonso Pueblo
New Mexico

Dear Mr. Gonzales,

I am sending you the first copy of this portfolio from Jerusalem as a gift for your people. It is a tiny token of long-standing personal and artistic gratitude to the Pueblo Peoples and to the Indian nations.

I grew up in the territories of the Miami tribes. In the fall of 1964, leaving home for the first time at seventeen years of age, I set out alone on the long train trip into the vast regions of your pueblos. I arrived in Lamy and was immediately overwhelmed by the awesome, vast, solitude and spirit of the magnificent landscape. Presently I was picked up by the Indian Trails Bus and taken up into the mountains, where I was to live for four years on the slopes of Monte Sol. It was here for the first time that I came into contact with your people and culture.

These were important, influential and formative times for me. Though as a member of the first class at St. John’s College, Santa Fé, I was deeply immersed in the study of European culture, there were other influences that seeped into my consciousness.

First among these was a deepening awareness of my identity as member of the People of Israel. The cultural diversity with which—for the first time in my life—I was surrounded after coming to New Mexico made me ponder my own personal, national and tribal identity. I saw the peoples around me clinging to their nations, culture, and languages with a proud and fierce tenacity. I gradually came to be more and more aware of my own ties to my people—the people of Israel. Slowly I started to seriously examine who I was as a Jew. What did that Jewishness mean? What was this strange Jewish culture to which I was heir as a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? What did I know of my people’s ancient language? What were the ceremonies, the customs, the ideas, and the powers of my people? These questions fascinated me intellectually, but the more important issue was whether—or how—was I going to accept, reject, or embrace the ancient ways of my people. Was I to follow the path of virtually all the Jews I knew and assimilate into the great American melting pot, or that of those few who sought to return to the very heart of their people? Was I going to be a “pueblo/reservation” Jew immersing myself in my people’s ways, learning them, practicing them, fostering them, and passing them on to my descendants; or was I going to “leave the reservation” and move into the vast, general culture that was so open and available to me?

The Jewish community of Santa Fe in those days was tiny. There was just one small Reform congregation with a few dozen members and a handful of people who would show up regularly. Several of these families were very kind to me. A wonderful teacher, Rabbi Abraham Shinedling, would come up regularly from Albuquerque and I began to study Hebrew with him. Yet there was no one in Santa Fe in those days from whom I felt I could learn the ancient ways of my people. That was a quest I had to do very much on my own. And I began that quest.

To be a member of the People of Israel is to be blessed, and it is also to bless. Some one hundred and fifty generations ago we were told by our great God who created us, chose us and sustains us, that we are to be a blessing to all the nations of the world. An awesome task.  We also imbue our lives with blessings. We are told that we are to bless our God one hundred times every single day. We have blessings for eating each kind of food; we have blessings we recite when we see God’s power and might fill the sky with lightning or thunder; we have blessings we recite on hearing good news and on hearing bad news. We have many fixed blessings that form the core of our daily prayers.

But there are also a few rather obscure blessings—ones that are not recited daily or even yearly. There are some blessings that many of us are never blessed to bless. One of these blessings I recite only every few years. Each time I return to Santa Fe, I head toward the east and walk slowly across the campus of St. John’s College. I climb past the upper dormitories where I once lived and continue among the piñons up Monte Sol. Here I look westward across the beautiful land that has penetrated my soul and I gratefully intone this blessing: “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, Ruler of the entire world, who has performed a miracle for me in this place.”

For I am deeply convinced that it was nothing less than a miracle that alone, among these piñons, so many years ago—without companions, without a community, and without a mentor—I was given the gift of a profound will to return to our people, to our nation, and to our God.

In addition to this spiritual process of return, I was simultaneously drinking in the ambience of your land—the people, the sounds, the smells, the plants, the earth, the views, the buildings, the culture and the art. Who knows how deeply our environment inhabits us? Though the neighborhoods, trees, rivers and woods where I grew up still move me deeply, the home I adopted in your lands resonates no less.  Your land, in a very mysterious sense, has become part of who I am. I am grateful to you and your peoples for that part of myself and for the years of my sojourn as your uninvited guest.

From your lands I journeyed back to the native land of my people and there immersed myself in its very heart. There I studied our ancient tongue. There I began to learn our ancient ways. There I sensed the first promptings of an inner voice to create for my people.

As the decades passed, numerous blessings have been showered upon me. Gifts of family and friendship, of nourishment and abundance, of knowledge and talent. Yet the subtle impressions of your vast lands never abandoned me. When some years ago my art led me to begin to paint on pottery, hints of the images I breathed in so many years before began to naturally flow into my hands. I translated them into the symbols of my people and shared them with others.

Now, exactly forty years after I first reached your lands, I have come to affix some of these designs on paper. I want to give back to you and your people this first copy of the portfolio I have created. As so many fragments, values and stories of our people in this land have permeated the ways of your people over the past few hundred years, I have now drawn some of the elements of your culture into ours.

With deep respect and admiration, with a sense of brotherhood and gratitude, I send these works of my hands into your hands.

David Moss
Jerusalem, 5764


Bet Alpha Editions is proud to announce a new suite of fine prints by David Moss. These prints of Hebrew images and calligraphy are in the style of Pueblo pottery and based on the hand painted pottery that David has been producing for several years. The portfolio consists of 7 images of giclee printing on heavy acid free paper, 15 by 20 inches, in a folio with a surprise feature.