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As Reviewed in THE Magazine

August 2015

In Search of Nampeyo: The Early Years, 1875-1892 (Spirit Bird Press, $50), which has been awarded the silver medal for non-fiction in the Mountain West division by the 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, takes the reader on a journey back to the Hopi potter's artistic roots as evidenced in the collection of British trader Thomas Keam, whose collection is now housed at Harvard University's Peabody Museum. Author and scholar Steve Elmore begins with the potter's childhood, leads us through the art history of Hopi ceramics, and brings us full circle into Nampeyo's enduring, iconic role in the art world and beyond. Elmore's research spans twenty five years. He describes his fascination with "Nampeyo's fluid curvilinear lines and stunning abstractions." This fascination grew into deep respect for the artist and sparked his desire to enhance her importance in the art world. "While much of Nampeyo's life was that of a traditional Hopi woman," writes Elmore, "we need to consider her life and work outside of the academic fields of archaeology and anthropology, which have heretofore defined how Nampeyo has been perceived by the public." The book's foreword is by Nampeyo's granddaughter, potter Rachel Sahmie, who characterizes Elmore's achievement this way: "I am so thankful that Steve Elmore had the courage to look for the beginning works of my grandmother, Nampeyo. It's a refreshing thought." The book is beautifully illustrated with a blend of historical photographs and Elmore's own photos—he has a twenty year career as a professional photographer, after all—of pots, bowls, dippers, tiles, and even Nampeyo's innovative, ceramic jack-in-the-box.

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