New to the Ackland: A Sculpture by Virgil Ortiz

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A blue-green sculpture of a human figure swathed in fabric with large silver circles

Created by Virgil Ortiz, a major multimedia artist from the Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico, this blue ceramic figure, nearly two feet high, stands within a swirling form and has a mysterious rectangular headdress attached to the rear of its right ear. Titled Shu-Hah Healer, the sculpture is, like much of Ortiz’s practice, a part of his long-running narrative Revolt 1680/2180. Ortiz combines the little-taught real-life history of the 1680 revolt against Spanish colonists by Pueblo tribes with an imagined version of the conflict happening five centuries later. His approach allows him to fuse traditional Cochiti cultural elements with unfamiliar design details meant to evoke science fiction and fantasy. In his world building, Ortiz describes the nineteen groups of characters within his project, including the Healers, as symbolically corresponding to the remaining Pueblo tribes.

I first admired this sculpture during the Ackland patrons’ trip to Santa Fe in October 2023; while there, the group had the chance to meet Ortiz and hear him talk about his work. Due to the generosity of fellow traveler Richard Pardue, the Ackland was able to acquire it for the permanent collection, and it was recently on view in Ackland Upstairs.

— Lauren Turner, associate curator for contemporary art and special projects

Image credit:

Virgil Ortiz, Cochiti Pueblo, born 1969, Shu-Hah Healer, 2023, high-fire ceramic and glazes, 23 × 10 1/2 × 10 in. (58.4 × 26.7 × 25.4 cm). Gift of Richard Pardue to honor Lauren Turner, 2023.39. © 2022 Virgil Ortiz