Virgil Ortiz

Virgil Ortiz (born 1969, Cochiti Pueblo) is an internationally renowned ceramicist, fashion designer, and graphic artist from Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico. He uses contemporary art to blend historic events with futuristic elements. Ortiz makes traditional Cochiti figurative pottery, experimental figurative pottery, traditional pottery vessels, and designer clothing. He is probably best known for his edgy pottery figures, his contemporary take on the traditional Cochiti pottery figures (monos) from the late 1800s.

Virgil’s mother was noted potter Seferina Ortiz (1931-2007) taught Virgil to make traditional Cochiti pueblo pottery. Virgil won his first Santa Fe Indian Market award at the age of 14. “I grew up participating in Indian Market, it was always an exciting time for my family,” he said. “The thought has never crossed my mind to be anything other than an artist and fashion designer. Art is in my blood,” he said.

By age 16, Virgil Ortiz was a successful, working artist and he began to travel. “I would have a show, sell pottery and save,” he said in an interview. “With the money saved I would take a friend and we would travel to different cities — New York, Chicago, Los Angeles — and I got to experience different cultures.” Virgil was drawn to the night club scene. There he saw many people with tattoos and piercings that reminded him of the 1800s Cochiti figures. “I was inspired to create images of what I saw, it gave me a freedom knowing that I was not an innovator or even going outside of tradition, I was in fact a Revivalist,” he said.

For a 2003 collaboration with designer Donna Karan, he developed boldly patterned textiles based on his hypergraphic decorative painting. Three years later he established Indigene, his own fashion line.

Ortiz was selected to be a United States Artists Target Fellow in 2007, in Crafts and Traditional Arts. Virgil Ortiz’s works are in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, Denver Art Museum, the Stedelijk Museum in The Netherlands, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Albuquerque, Cartier’s Paris, France and others. Virgil Ortiz’s exquisite clay works are exhibited worldwide.

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