Native Artist Pablita Verlarde, Santa Clara Pueblo
Pablita Verlarde, explains she became a painter. "In the beginning it was half a way to make a little money just so I
could survive tomorrow, but I wasn't in it for the money. I was doing it because I wanted to do it. If I sold a
painting, fine. I liked making pictures, whether anybody liked them or not."
Verlarde's commitment to painting mattered deeply enough to emerge as a factor in her divorce from Herbert
Hardin after seventeen years of marriage. Hardin objected to his wife's career. Citing his opposition as the
principal reason for their separation, Verlarde alluded in an interview with Samuel Gray to the frustration and
depression she experienced when she was unable to paint. The reasons for her unhappiness may be clarified with
respect to the processes that stimulated her creativity, which she discussed with Seymour in the mid-1980s.
Her own words describe a dream-like state of consciousness that inspired her to paint, arising at times from
actual dreams and a subconscious level of thought, but also produced as an immediate or after-effect of attending
ceremonial events. Verlarde characterized the sense of beauty and satisfaction she took away from those
experiences as the most rewarding component of her art, and recalled that imagery often took shape in her
imagination during those times. Lingering impressions of dreams and dances would recur as persistent memories
that she felt irresistibly moved to give visible form.
It is something you either dream in your sleep, or you have it in your subconscious mind, and it just comes out. And
you want to do it. So you do it.... When I go to the ceremonies, I listen to the chants and listen to what they are
saying, and that is the most beautiful part, to listen. Then you drift off into a dream world, and it makes pictures
in your head. You remember those nice thoughts when you get back home. Your heart is still pounding with the
rhythm after you leave the place. And you lock it up someplace in your head. As time goes on, when you get a quiet
moment, you begin to think of those things. And they begin to haunt you, so you have to do something about it. That
is the way I do things; I just keep remembering.
Spectatorship has been cited by a number of painters as a key source of inspiration, and as Verlarde's remarks
suggest, witnessing as well as dancing may act as a vehicle for inducing intensely imaginative mental states. This
association may be traced to the dynamic, effective agency attributed to thought and psychological activity in
Pueblo and many other Native American worldviews. Attendance and spectatorship are regarded as active
participation, so that viewers as well as dancers are seen as contributing with their moods, thoughts, and
imaginative engagement to the purpose and success of the rite. As Jill Sweet observes in her study of Tewa dance,
attendance does not involve passive watching in the Western theatrical sense, but a quite different state of
awareness which she calls "active listening." Copyright 2012
Deats, L. Contemporary Native American Artists. 2012.
Reno, D. Contemporary Native American Artists. 1995.
Schaaf, G. American Indian Jewelry I: 1200 Artist Biographies. 2003.