Rick Dillingham - 2/1/2017

The artist with his pottery.
Photo Courtesy Linda Durham.

Pottery is a human invention made from the earth dating back centuries, making it a frequent source of research for anthropologists. New Mexico's rich cultural history and underdeveloped space made it an attractive location for those interested in studying anthropology in the 20th century. One person of particular note was ceramicist Rick Dillingham who received his B.F.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1974 and an M.F.A from Scripps College. Rick Dillingham's academic study of Southwest pottery informed his own creations in a way that blended the fields of anthropology and art.

Rick Dillingham
Untitled Ceramic Vessel, 1985-1986
ceramic, gold leaf, enamel, glue
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mel Pfaelzer, Mr. Jack Satin, and Mr. and Mrs. John Metzenberg, 1987

Dillingham authored several books on Pueblo pottery, including Seven Families in Pueblo Pottery (1974) and its expanded version Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery (1994) and Acoma & Laguna pottery (1992). This scholarship also influenced his own work. His ceramic gas cans comment on the centrality of gasoline to modern life. These vessels and/or cans were patterned after Pueblo ceramic water jars that were essential to Pueblo life for a thousand years.

Rick Dillingham
Gas Can, 1972
Post fired reduction (American Raku)
Bequest of the Rick Dillingham Estate, 1994

He is best remembered for his signature "broken pottery" technique involving the deliberate destruction of pottery by his own hand, the decoration and coloring of the shards, and their reconstruction when his artistic applications were completed.

Dillingham lived with AIDS for over ten years before it ended his life at age 41. Around 1992 he made a series of pots reflecting on this disease metaphorically painted black and lined with silver.

Dillingham’s talents as a ceramicist and a scholar of Native American Pottery make him an ideal artist to behold within our own collection. The museum is fortunate to have acquired Dillingham's own pottery as well as his personal collection of art made by others such as Beatrice Wood, Viola Frey, and Peter Voulkos.

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