Virgil Ortiz

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Virgil Ortiz portrait, 2012

Virgil Ortiz (born 1969, Cochiti Pueblo) is a Pueblo artist, potter, fashion designer and photographer from Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico. Ortiz makes traditional Cochiti figurative pottery, experimental figurative pottery, traditional pottery vessels, and designer clothing. He is probably best known for his edgy pottery figures, his contemporary take on the traditional Cochiti pottery figures (monos) from the late 1800s.

Virgil's mother is noted potter Seferina Ortiz (1931-2007).[1] She taught her son to make traditional Cochiti pueblo pottery. “The thought has never crossed my mind to be anything other than an artist and fashion designer. Art is in my blood,” he said.[2]

Virgil won his first Santa Fe Indian Market award at the age of 14. “I grew up participating in Indian Market, it was always an exciting time for my family,” he said. [3]

By age 16, Virgil Ortiz was a successful, working artist and he began to travel. “I would have a show, sell pottery and save,” he said in an interview. “With the money saved I would take a friend and we would travel to different cities -- New York, Chicago, Los Angeles -- and I got to experience different cultures.” Virgil was drawn to the night club scene. There he saw many people with tattoos and piercings that reminded him of the 1800s Cochiti figures. “I was inspired to create images of what I saw, it gave me a freedom knowing that I was not an innovator or even going outside of tradition, I was in fact a Revivalist,” he said.[3]

For a 2003 collaboration with designer Donna Karan, he developed boldly patterned textiles based on his hypergraphic decorative painting. Three years later he established Indigene, his own fashion line.[4]

Ortiz was selected to be a United States Artists Target Fellow in 2007, in Crafts and Traditional Arts.[4] Ortiz continues (2013) to live and work in Cochiti Pueblo.

Virgil Ortiz's works are in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, the Stedelijk Museum in The Netherlands,[5] the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Albuquerque Museum, and others.

Traditional Cochiti pottery figures (Monos )[edit]

Cochiti Pueblo caricature figure (mono) of a white man, perhaps a circus performer? Circa 1883

During the early days of the transcontinental railroad, Cochiti artists caricatured the travelers—circus performers, salesmen, and adventurers— who suddenly appeared in their world. “The figurative style was a form of social commentary,” Ortiz said. “They captured in clay the images of all the crazy, nonnative people who were passing through the area at that time. Those crazier pieces and the tradition of pottery as social commentary really leave the board wide open for me as an artist.” Ortiz and other Cochiti potters have revived this tradition for the 21st century.[4]

Around 1984, Bob Gallegos, an Albuquerque collector, showed the young Ortiz his collection of 1800s Cochiti pottery. Ortiz couldn't believe how similar the 19th century pottery was to his own work. He had never seen these pieces before.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dillingham, Rick (1994). Fourteen families in Pueblo Pottery. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico. p. 120. ISBN 0826314996.
  2. ^ Designer Profile of Virgil Ortiz, Beyond Buckskin, June 28, 2010
  3. ^ a b c Virgil Ortiz was born with clay in his hands, Native Sun News, September 29, 2013
  4. ^ a b c USA Fellows Stories: Virgil Ortiz
  5. ^ Ancient Interpreters: Virgil Ortiz by Jay Tavare, Huffington Post, 08/06/2012

External links[edit]