ArtsConnectEd/ArtsNet Minnesota

Art and Artists
 Berenice Abbott
 Giovanni Canal
 Frank Gehry
 Marsden Hartley
 Louis Lozowick
 Mexico (Nayarit)
 David Nash
 Georgia O'Keeffe
 Vincent van Gogh

Inner Worlds What is Art?  Identity Designing Spaces and Places
Mexico (Nayarit)
Mexico (Nayarit), House GroupClick for larger image
Mexico (Nayarit)
House Group, 200 B.C.-A.D. 300
polychromed terra-cotta
H. 18 1/2 in.
About the Art

The Nayarit people of Mexico lived in harmony with their natural surroundings, in a close community marked by a strong sense of unity with other people. So important was this comfortable environment that the Nayarit people sought to continue it even after death.
Studying this sculpture has helped archaeologists discover what the everyday life of the ancient western Mexicans was like. It consists of a two-story house occupied by several men, women, and children. Five figures sit under the roof on the top story. The figure at the back faces out-of-doors, while the other four are gathered around a round bowl of food (perhaps corn). Two of these people are eating with their hands raised to their mouths, while the other two gaze on with their elbows resting on their laps. Outside on the roof of the bottom story are three more figures sitting on their knees. Two are children, one resting and the other being embraced by the adult seated nearby. Nayarit  House Group (detail)
House Group, detail from back
Two stairways along the sides of the house lead to the two - roomed area below. There, a male figure wearing a cone-shaped hat leans against the doorway to the back room, while two women turn toward him and the container of food that lies at their feet. Archaeologists now think that the two - story house represents how the Nayarit view the world. In this house the dwelling of the dead is thought to be the bottom floor and is a mirror image of the realm of those living above. The dead and the living exist in the same space, with only a fragile barrier between them, and participate in the same kinds of activities.

The House Group is built with clay by hand. The bodies and heads of the people are made with flat slabs of clay which are pinched to form faces and other details. Short coiled (rolled out) pieces of clay are attached to the body to form the arms and legs. This results in figures with oval-shaped heads, hatchet - like noses and flat chests. Each person looks as though it has an individual personality. Some have facial tattoos and other body decoration. The house is also decorated with geometric patterns. This colorful decoration reflects the lively spirit of the Nayarit and their faith in both this world and the next.

Vocabulary Terms

archaeologist--A scientist who studies the life and customs of past cultures by examining their material remains, usually artifacts such as utensils, stone carvings, architecture.

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