There is a small museum just getting started in Denver, CO called “Museo de las Americas.” The Museo was founded in 1991. It celebrates Latino art and culture.
Part of the Museo’s collection are a few pre-Hispanic ceramic pieces from what is now Mexico. Although not a large collection, and perhaps because it’s not a large collection, I found myself pausing to look closely at some of the forms: hunchbacks, warriors, zoomorphic vessels. The detailing is exquisite, as with the beads and surface decoration on this figurine of a dancer from the Colima culture.
Note to the left the dancer’s mask, which is detachable from the figurine. Notes from the Museo explain that dance was an important part of ritual in this ancient culture (which thrived around 500 CE). Clay figures like this document dance performance and are thought to serve some educational function. The Museo tells us that “themes of duality are inextricable from everyday life in ancient America. When the dancer dons the mask, they are transported to a liminal space, where they are both, yet neither, the dancer and the spiritual figure they are impersonating. This spirit-human hybrid is what the artwork strives to embody.”
Another example I enjoyed was this hunchback figurine, also from Colima (100-250 CE). Vessels representing hunchback figures are believed to represent dwarfs or shamans.
Again, this is a modest collection of ceramics, but I enjoyed the items. Here are a few additional items for your viewing pleasure.