The Pueblo of Zia is known for the beautifully decorated pottery produced in the village. It is one of the most recognizable styles of pottery from the many Pueblo villages along the Rio Grande, which flows between Taos Pueblo on the north to Isleta, near Albuquerque.
The people of these pueblos migrated from the ancient northern settlements of the Ancestral Puebloans, also known as the Anasazi. The great settlements at Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon are some of the best-known sites of these early settlers of the Southwest. Mesa Verde National Park is the only park dedicated to the works of man rather than the works of nature. The Park, near Durango, is worth a several day visit.
Not all artistry at Zia is limited to pottery, however. The influence of Dorothy Dunn, who taught at Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts, was monumental in creating a tradition of painting and drawing.
Raphael Medina made a name for himself as a painter. As a young man he attended the Albuquerque Indian School and Institute of American Indian Art where he studied under Velin Herrera and Jose Rey Toledo after Dunn left the school. His early paintings were based on the simple techniques taught by Dunn, but his later work became more detailed.
We have three nice water-based paintings from this artist. The latest, painted in the 1980s, depicts the initiation of a Zia man, detailing the elaborate nature of the ceremony.
The other two paintings are of Clown dancers. The oldest is a white on black painting and the second is from later in his career. While the Hopi and Zuni are best known for their Kachina (Katsina) Dances, Zia and other villages also share that tradition.
The works of these early Pueblo painters are becoming more collectible as people realize that they documented Pueblo ceremonials that are not often painted. The initiation painting certainly fits in this category.
Raphael was the father of famed potter Marcellus Medina and the husband of Sophia Medina.