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A very beautiful large Hopi plainware

“Piki” bowl by Myrtle Young, c.1960’s-70’s

Myrtle Young (1903-1984) along with her talented younger sister, Garnet Pavatea (1915-1981), was one of the finest Hopi potters of the 20th Century. Myrtle Young was most renowned for her large and very striking Modernist interpretations of traditional Hopi “Piki” or dough bowls. Piki is a unique and traditional type of Hopi flat bread made from a blue corn batter which is very thinly spread in sheets and quickly cooked on a very hot stone known as a Piki stone. The dough for the Piki is mixed and held in a vessel known as a Piki bowl usually a somewhat thick-walled utilitarian Hopi plainware bowl of medium size, either yellow or red in color.

Myrtle Young’s signature artistic achievement was to elevate these humble household ceramics into the exalted realm of fine art which she did by endowing them with large, graceful, balloon-like shapes with thin high curving walls and an extraordinarily fine interior and exterior stone polishing all of which is completed by outstanding skillful coal-firing an extremely difficult ancient Hopi ceramic technique which yields very hard vessel walls and

a beautiful creamy yellow-orange clay color with lovely lighter cream and soft grey firing blushes.

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“The Piki Maker, Hopi” by Edward S. Curtis, 1906

A tray of freshly-made piki bread

© Wikipedia

The degree of refinement Myrtle Young’s artistry brought to this traditional ceramic form is absolutely stunning with a visual effect like that of an elegant modern sculpture, a Brancusi of pottery bowls if you will. With plain- ware pottery there is nowhere to hide, so to speak. The entire artistic impression must be completely defined by the vessel’s shape, proportions and surface color and texture. There is no paint or “design” to cover up or distract from one’s mistakes or lack of ability. Here in this bowl, the shape, proportion, surface and technical execution are all immaculate, the vessel’s walls are a beautiful light orange with lovely light cream-colored firing clouds created by the high-temperature firing with Lignite coal.

This large bowl measures just shy of 13” in diameter and is 5 3/8” in height. It is in excellent original condition with no cracks and no chips and just a very tiny, almost not even mentionable, ding here and there and some slight surface abrasion on the bottom. There is no restoration or overpainting in evidence under UV-light examination. The bowl is properly signed on the bottom with Myrtle Young’s customary signature.

This lovely bowl is a wonderful synthesis of the ancient and the modern; a traditional Hopi ceramic form made elegant, streamlined and contemporary by an exceptional artist who never heard of German architect Mies van de Rohe and his legendary Modernist maxim, “Less is more” yet somehow understood and practiced it instinctively.

Price $1,950

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