When we first started collecting San Ildefonso pottery we were told that there was an ample supply of Juanita Vigil's work. We were glad to here this, knowing she passed away 73 years ago. As we saw more shows and auctions we started seeing pots signed Juanita. Much to our surprise no one could tell us which Juanita it was! The more we learned the more perplexing it has become in determining the differences between Juanita Vigil, Juanita Gonzalez and Juanita Pena.
Just recently we made another trip to the San Ildefonso Pueblo where we spoke with relatives of Juanita Gonzalez, Juanita Pena and Juanita Vigil. After speaking with them and reviewing several pictures of pots and signatures, it has become very obvious that the answer to our Juanita questions is far from our grasp. Ironically, the more we've learned over the last few months the farther we are from recognize the differences between these potters.
Again this brings up my age-old hypotheses that human beings naturally focus on a quick and elegant answer - ignoring the obvious route that will be much more difficult. Sitting down with Paul Elmore of Steve Elmore Indian Art woke us up to the somewhat obvious realization that just reviewing signatures was not going to help us distinguish between these three potters. Much more research was going to be needed. I guess my own ego was hoping that I can parade around auctions and galleries and be able to tell the difference of these three by just looking at the signature.
Just to fill in a little of the background I'll tell you a few things that we found out. First off we found in Al Hayes's book "Southwestern Pottery - Anasazi to Zuni" a note that he and Richard Howard had observed a characteristic in Juanita Vigil's signature that distinguishes it from Juanita Gonzales. Now this is cool - and an elegant and quick answer! Then I found a very beautiful carved pot that was signed Juanita - so I sent a picture of the pot and the signature off to Mr. Hayes. First he looked at the signature and said yes, this definitely is Juanita Vigil. Then he looked at the pot and said this is definitely Juanita Gonzales' work! This is good!
We really didn't know whose pot it is. Doing a little research we ran through several Tony and Juanita Pena signatures and one of the Juanita Pena signatures was a dead ringer for this Juanita signature. We feel pretty confident that this pot is Juanita Pena pot.
Now here is where the fun starts! In our recent trip to San Ildefonso Pueblo we ran across a couple more Tony and Juanita pots where the distinguishing characteristic signature was quite different in Juanita as compared to the other Tony and Juanita pots and of course are Juanita pot. Hence Tony's Juanita definitely signed her name slightly differently over the course of time. So much for this great solution! There is documentation in Greg Schaaf's book "Pueblo Indian Pottery", page 210, that identifies three ways she signed including the single "Juanita".
All-in-all we are left utterly perplexed. I'll even use the word confused! It is obvious that Paul Elmore is right and we'll have to look for documented examples of Juanita Vigil before we can get closer to answer this problem.
We have come across two pieces that we believe to be Juanita Vigil's work. In the future we will give more details on why we believe this. The two pieces are shown below. Soon we will show you the signatures which aid in the identification. We have done some pretty good homework and I am relieved to see some possible defining conclusions. There is still more work to be done on this one, but the pieces are coming together nicely.
If you have any information on this please contact us - we'd love to hear from you.
One of the few Juanita Vigil pieces we have found. The signature is very distinctive and unique from Juanita Pena and Juanita Gonzales.
We found this Juanita Vigil in a museum in Florida. Again the signature is very unique from Juanita Pena and Juanita Gonzales.