Christine McHorse

Christine McHorse, Navajo potter
Christine McHorse created this black micaceous sculptural piece

Christine Nofchissey was born in December, 1948, and grew up mostly in the Clifton-Morenci area of Arizona. Her father was a heavy equipment operator in the open pit copper mines there.

Proud to be 100% Navajo, she spent most of her early summers herding sheep with her grandmother near Ganado on the Navajo Nation. She graduated from Santa Fe's Institute of American Indian Arts in 1968. Three years later she married Joel McHorse, a silversmith from Taos Pueblo (Joel's father was an Irish-Texan cowboy, hence the name).

Christine told us she learned most of her pottery making techniques from Joel's grandmother, Lena Archuleta. Typical Taos pottery is simple and elegant with few decorative elements beyond the surface of micaceous clay. The tiny flecks of mica infuse the clay and act as temper when the clay is fired. When Christine did add a design element, her designs were drawn from the rich pantheon of Navajo tradition.

Christine grew up Navajo, then married a man from Taos Pueblo and lived among Anglos in Santa Fe. She felt that none of the three cultures had much influence over how she worked: she created whatever she felt the clay suggested that she create. The freedom of expression that came with that extended even to the process whereby she fired her pots.

Some pots were fired the Navajo way, in a pit outdoors, then coated in pinon pitch. Others were fired indoors in a kiln. Still others were fired in a kiln, then refired outdoors to produce the interaction between fire and pinon pitch that she felt the fire clouds on a particular piece demanded. Always, she approached her art with the depth of Navajo spirituality and Earth-connection infused in her during those long summers spent on the Navajo Reservation with her grandmother.

Christine's resume lists pages of honors and awards she earned and exhibitions she participated in over the years, beginning with her first submission to the Santa Fe Indian Market in 1984. She earned at least one blue ribbon almost every year she went to the Santa Fe Market. In 1992 she went to Santa Fe with only 2 pots, entered them in 2 different categories, earned 2 blue ribbons, returned to her booth and a waiting line of would-be buyers. She was headed back home by mid-morning of the first day, sold out.

Christine didn't participate in Indian Market any more after that. She'd graduated to the world stage and her work was being shown in exhibitions and galleries from Santa Fe to New York to Canada and Germany. As she once told us, "The ribbons and things are just bonuses. What I like is the opportunity to work without restraint."

While Christine may not have participated in Santa Fe's Indian Market in her later years, she did participate for several years in the Best of the Best Show at Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery. The Best of the Best Show opened for several years just before Indian Market officially began.

Sadly, Christine passed away February 17, 2021.

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