Zuni Pottery Owl: Zuni Pottery Owl by Nellie Bica, #715 Sold
#715 Description: ZUNI POTTERY FIGURE - Standing Owl in painted terra cotta by Zuni potter Nellie Bica, mid 20th c,
Dimensions: 3 1/2" tall,
Condition: Good condition overall given age, with minor soiling.
Provenance: This piece came from the THE NANCY PRINCE COLLECTION. Nancy Prince, art educator, artist, antique dealer, and published author, has been a collector of Native American art and respected member of the antiques community for over 45 years.
Items from her extensive collections have been displayed in Native American exhibitions at the University of Maines Hudson Museum in Orono, ME and at the Portland (ME) Historical Society.
Born in Quincy, IL and raised in Bronxville, NY, her interest in Native arts began during childhood summer vacations with her aunt, who traveled as a handwork instructor for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. While visiting various reservations, she developed a deep appreciation for the artwork created there.
Her art focused education, included courses at Bennington College, Hartford Art School, Silvermine College of Art, and Yale University School of Art & Architecture. Prince began collecting while attending Yale University, and she spent weekends scouring local flea markets for baskets and other Native artwork.
After Yale, she made and sold silver and bead jewelry and moonlighted as an antique dealer to supplement her income. At this time, she participated in antique shows in and around New York City, specializing in Native American art. For 15 years, she co-directed an art school in Danbury, CT with her husband, Roger, who is also a listed sculptor.
Prince served as a painting and 2-dimensional art instructor, and Roger headed the 3-dimensional art department. She became a full time antiques dealer after moving to Turner, ME in 1990, and, in partnership with Roger, she participated in antique shows throughout New England, New York, California and New Mexico.
She also served on the Maine Antique Dealer Association board. After relocating to Portland, ME in 2000, she continued in the antiques trade, and Roger became a full time working sculptor. She has recently retired from the business, and along with Roger is now in the process of moving to Florida.
Nellie Bica (1904-c1990s)
Nellie Bica is considered one of the most famous Zuni potters of the mid-20th century. She is especially noted for her pottery owl figures. She was prolific and respected for her fine artistry. In 1917, Nellie learned to make pottery: "My mother's youngest sister taught me when I was in my teens. Owls were the first potteries I made. That's the way they taught them in those days. I always put babies on my owls. I think I was one of the first to make owls with legs. Now my daughter and three granddaughters make them, too."
After the passing of Tsayutisa and Catalina Zunie, Nellie Bica helped keep pottery making alive at Zuni. Quanita Kalestewa, her daughter, said that Nellie used to fire her pottery early in the morning, "just when the sun rises." Nellie taught her daughter to pray when gathering clay and making pottery.
Nellie made pottery when not working at their family sheep ranch. She was asked to teach pottery at Zuni, but explained that she was too busy with family responsibilities. She was a respected master potter.
Source: from Southern Pueblo Pottery 2,000 Artist Biographies by Gregory Schaaf
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