Christine Garnier is a Ph.D. candidate in the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University and was a Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, during the 2019-2020 academic year. She holds a B.S. in mathematics from the Catholic University of America and an M.A. in Art History from Tufts University. Her dissertation, titled “Amalgamating the West during the American Silver Age,” focuses on the material histories of silver objects created during the rise of mining in the American West during the nineteenth century, and the importance of bringing the social, political, and ecological histories of these lands into art historical dialogs. She is currently a Wyeth fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art (2020-2022).
Nestled in an archival box in the storage vaults of the National Museum of the American Indian, I encountered a small, copper sculpture that points to an entirely different sense of place. Hogan Teapot (2013) by Diné (Navajo) artist Amelia Joe-Chandler is a living homage to the idea of home—particularly her family’s home in Dinétah, the ancestral homelands of the Navajo Nation in the American Southwest. The brilliancy of the copper recalls the traditional form of the hogan, a dome-shaped structure with a log or stone framework that is traditionally covered with mud that hardens like rock. With a door outlined in silver on the side, the lid handle as a stove pipe, and a cast tree and two small sheep as the handle, Joe-Chandler’s sculpture changes the ubiquitous form of the teapot into a site of personal encounter through these allusions to her family’s home.