National Museum of Women in the Arts
Lucy M. Lewis
circa November 02 1900 - March 12 1992
Photograph of Lucy M. Lewis, 1989, by Allen G. Gelb, courtesy of the photographer
Place of Birth:
Acoma Pueblo
Phonetic Spelling:
LOO-see ehm LOO-ihss
Minority status:
Native American
Native American Tribe:
Work Type/Media:
Decorative and utilitarian works
Artistic Role(s):
Potter, Self-taught Artist
Traditional Art
Artist's Biography:
Considered one of the matriarchs of American Indian pottery, Lucy M. Lewis was born and raised on Sky City mesa, a land formation more than three hundred feet off the ground in Acoma Pueblo, west of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since there were no schools on the mesa, Lewis received no formal education. Instead she worked at home, sewing, preparing food, and making pots—the latter, a skill she acquired as a young child by watching her great-aunt Helice Vallo.

Lewis was never helped—or interfered with—as Acoma was rarely visited by tourists, archeologists, museum curators, or collectors. Moreover she did not travel to powwows or fairs; the farthest Lewis generally ventured was to the nearest town, twenty miles away, where she occasionally sold her pottery.

Lewis married and had nine children. Her remarkable energy enabled her to do the household chores, help her husband with the farming, and make pots. While many American Indian potters worked collaboratively, Lewis—who had insisted that all her children attend school, requiring them to leave home—worked alone. Her art first became well known outside the pueblo in 1950, when Lewis received a blue ribbon for her pottery at the first competition she ever entered. At forty-eight, she suddenly began winning awards—from the American Craft Council, the College Art Association, the state of New Mexico. Lewis’ art was championed by Edgar Lee Hewett of the Museum of New Mexico and exhibited in a New York gallery; in 1986, Lewis was honored by the Honolulu Academy of Fine Arts.

Other Occupation(s):
Place(s) of Residence:
Acoma Pueblo
Where Trained/Schools:
Related Visual Artists:
great-niece of Helice Vallo mother of Ivan Lewis mother of Ann Lewis Hansen mother of Andrew Lewis mother of Emma Lewis Mitchell mother of Mary Lewis Garcia mother of Dolores Lewis Garcia mother of Carmel Lewis Haskaya mother-in-law of Rita Lewis friend of Marie Zieu Chino
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Gold Medal, College Art Association, New York, NY, USA (1992) Gold Medal, American Craft Council, New York, NY, USA (1985) Woman of Achievement Award, Northwood Institute, Houston, TX, USA (1983)
Earliest exhibition:
Annual Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, Gallup, NM, USA (1950)
NMWA exhibition(s):
American Indian Pottery from the Collection
The Legacy of Generations: Pottery by American Indian Women
Artist retrospective(s):
A Tribute to Lucy M. Lewis – Acoma Potter, Museum of North Orange County, Fullerton, CA, USA (1975)
Related places
Acoma Pueblo (died at)