In 1918, San Ildefonso Pueblo artist Crescencio Martinez completed two commissions for the anthropologist Edgar L. Hewett: A set of paintings and a series of tiles. The paintings, called the Crescencio Set
, mark a formative moment in the development of a new genre of art, modern Pueblo painting. Before Crescencio and his San Ildefonso peers began creating images of ceremonial and daily life for sale to outsiders, they were hired as day laborers at archaeological excavations. While Pueblo laborers benefited financially from working with anthropologists, they nevertheless understood anthropology as a threat to their communities, as scientists disrupted sacred sites and the dead, collected sensitive material, and pushed informants for esoteric information. In countering this new colonial threat, Pueblo communities deployed long-developed tactics of resistance. Among the most powerful of these tactics is what Audra Simpson calls “refusal”. Many Pueblo laborers refused to share esoteric knowledge with anthropologists, a tactic adopted by those laborers who became artists. Early Pueblo paintings can, thus, be understood as “ana-ethnographic”, a representational mode through which the artists worked both through and against ethnographic norms in order to simultaneously benefit from, manipulate, and resist scientific colonialism. Crescencio’s paintings and tiles are paradigmatically ana-ethnographic. In creating these objects, Crescencio benefited from the ethnographic desire to know and record Pueblo life, and yet he only represented aspects of his culture appropriate for outsider consumption, refusing to share protected knowledge.
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