Women's History in the Collections

Black pot
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Ceramic Pot
Tammy Tarbell-Boehning

The New York State Museum began it's association with Contemporary Native American artist, Tammy Tarbell-Boehning in 1986 with the purchase of a fine example of Blackware pottery which became the foundation of Tammy's early creations.

During her formal education at Syracuse University, Tammy became familiar with one of the most famous potters of the San Ildefanso Pueblo in New Mexico, Maria Martinez. It was then that she began experimenting with the burnish and firing techniques, she later mastered. This style, reflected in this piece, also illustrates the influence of the pottery of her traditional roots. This is apparent, in the collared rim, reminiscent of pottery dating 1000 - 1300 years ago as well as the more recent Late Woodland Period, around the 17th Century. All of these examples of Native American pottery are currently on view in the Windows on New York Exhibit at the Museum that opened Nov. 23, 2001.

Tammy Tarbell in her studio
Tammy in her studio.

Over the 21 years she has worked with clay, Tammy's body of work continues to grow and be transformed. Looking inward to create new works, she also believes that "everyone going through a journey can see it in the work." In 1996, the Museum added yet another focus to its collections represented by the Governors Collection of Contemporary Native American Crafts. The "Iroquois Woman" doll became a part of the inaugural collection.

"Iroquois Woman" Doll
"Iroquois Woman," as seen on exhibit.

Her doll series became an important part of Tammy's journey as a native woman - her exploration into woman's traditional roles and what the reality has become today. She has, in her own search for truth, questioned what power women really have, in that today, the "reality did not match the myth," referring to domestic violence in today's society. "If women didn't have so much power, why are they always put under thumb? Who is the weaker sex?" In answer to her own questions, she quickly responded "I think the woman give Adam the rib." Tammy hopes that through her work she could "uplift the spirits of women and myself." These sentiments reflected in the faces of her dolls that emit strength, power and wisdom.

Contributed by: Toni Benedict

For questions or comments relating to this entry, contact tbenedic@mail.nysed.gov
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