Kristin Otto MatriArt at the University Museum: Lucy Lewis | New Mexico State University - BE BOLD. Shape the Future.
Skip to main content

MatriArt at the University Museum: Lucy Lewis

A note on Matri Art from project organizer Dr. Georgina Badoni, Anthropology:

With centuries of persecutions, oppression, and underrepresentation, Native mothers have remained the core of families, communities, and nations, signifying the strength of resistance. How are Native women expressing this resistance in their work? It is through their art we are reminded of survival and the power of motherhood. An ideology of the Native motherhood series intends to represent diverse values, epistemologies, and worldviews, challenging the unjust representation of Native women.

Find out more about the MatriArt: Conversations with Artists Series here


Inspired by and in collaboration with Dr. Georgina Badoni’s MatriArt project to elevate the voices of contemporary Native women artists and mothers, the University Museum is highlighting stories of Native motherhood, education, tradition, and resistance from its collections. The various stories associated with the collections pictured here represent moments in the lives of Native women—among them mothers and daughters, grandmothers and aunts, sisters and wives. These formidable women carried on and evolved both cultural traditions and their own families through their work. We are honored to share their stories and their art. Today, we highlight the work of Lucy Lewis and her family in Acoma Pueblo. 

Black and white portrait of Lucy Lewis

 Portrait of Lucy Lewis at her home in Acoma Pueblo. Photo by Alan Schmierer, courtesy of photographer.

Lucy Lewis of Acoma Pueblo remains one of the most accomplished and well-known Native potters of the past century. She credited her great-aunt Helice Vallo and her mother Lola Santiago as the greatest influences on the development of her work. Since she began creating pottery at such a young age that Lucy’s children could not remember a time when their mother was not a potter. She began by selling her pots along the side of the road to tourists and gradually gained recognition as an accomplished artist across the country.

Wedding vase by Lucy Lewis, white with geometric black and orange designs. Wedding vase by Lucy Lewis, white with geometric black and orange designs.Wedding vase with chicken head by Lucy Lewis, white with geometric black and orange designs.

Left: Wedding vase signed Lucy Lewis. 2015.04.112, University Museum.

Center: Small wedding vase signed Lucy Lewis. 2015.04.132, University Museum.

Right: Wedding vase with bird head signed Lucy Lewis. 2015.04.133, University Museum

Inspired by her forebears’ styles of smooth, white slips with orange and brown bird-and-flower designs, Lucy created pottery drawing from traditional techniques and materials. However, Lucy also drew inspiration from the linear designs on historical pot sherds she found, using yucca paintbrushes to create the now-popular and delicate fine-line designs.


Small bowl with black and white linear designs by Lucy LewisBowl with black and white bird design by Lucy Lewis

Left: Small bowl with linear designs, signed Lucy Lewis. 1978.09.721, University Museum.

Right: Bowl with black and white bird deisgns, signed by Lucy Lewis. 1978.09.774, University Museum.


Lucy passed these techniques onto her children, including the artists Mary D. (Lewis Histia) Garcia and Andrew (Drew) Lewis represented in the University Museum’s collection. Lucy’s grandson Adam (son of Dolores Garcia Lewis) said this of his grandmother: “It makes me feel good every time I see or think about my grandmother. From my earliest memories of childhood, she was always there, in person or in the potteries she was making that were in various stages of construction when she wasn’t around…In my grandmother’s pottery I think about the great cultures here in New Mexico, who we maybe are descended from, and how she has kept the tradition of pottery making alive. It makes me feel good to know that I know where I come from.” (Peterson 1984, 77)


Wedding vase by Mary D. (Lewis Histia) Garcia, Lucy Lewis' daughter. White with orange and black designs. Vase by Drew Lewis, Lucy Lewis' son.

Left: 2015.04.133, wedding vase signed Mary D. [Lewis Histia] Garcia (1923-2015), daughter of Lucy Lewis.

Right: 2015.04.144, vase signed Drew [Andrew] Lewis, son of Lucy Lewis.



All of the Lewis family pottery whose numbers begin with 2015.04 shown here was generously donated by William Boucher to the University Museum in 2015. The two linear 1978.09 pieces come from the Lance Williams collection, and are on permanent exhibit in Pottery from the Americas. For more on Lucy Lewis, see: Peterson, Susan. 1984. Lucy M. Lewis: American Indian Potter. New York: Kodansha International.