Donor Profile: The Susan L. Q. Flaherty Collection
The Indian Arts Research Center’s (IARC) collection, a remarkable assemblage of Southwestern Native American art, was founded over a century ago as the Pueblo Pottery Fund in 1922. The collection has since grown to over 12,000 items and has exhausted the storage capacity of the IARC’s two vaults. The IARC recently updated its Collection Management Policy, in which the acquisition policy has become more stringent due to storage constraints and changes in industry best practices and ethics. Acquisitions now focus on filling gaps in the current collection in order to tell a more powerful story about the Indigenous Southwest and the broader IARC story.
The acquisition of the Susan L. Q. Flaherty Collection is a rare and exceptional example of a collection donation that the IARC was able to acquire due to its uniqueness and story. The gifted collection allows the IARC to further demonstrate the multigenerational nature of pottery making that goes beyond what already exists in the IARC collection. Included are seventy-three pieces created by some of the most well-known Pueblo artists in the last century, such as Maria and Julian Martinez (San Ildefonso), Lucy Lewis (Acoma), and Dora Tse Pe’ (San Ildefonso).
The Susan L. Q. Flaherty Collection is dedicated to the memory and artistry of her friend Dora Tse Pe’, potter of San Ildefonso (1939-2022).
Dora was born in 1939 in Zia Pueblo to Candelaria Medina of Zia and Tony Gachupin of Jemez. She was one of thirteen children. She learned pottery making from her mother. In the course of her life, Dora was known variously as Dora Gachupin, Dora Tse-Pé, Dora Tse Pé Peña, Dora Peña, and most recently Dora Tse Pe’.
In 1961, Dora married Tse Pe’ of San Ildefonso. There, Dora soon decided to pursue pottery making seriously. From her mother-in-law Rose Gonzales, Dora learned how to polish, which was not a technique used at Zia. Dora’s unique style was not only influenced by her mother Candelaria Medina and mother-in-law Rose Gonzales, but also by Popovi Da’s two-tone black and sienna ware and by Tony Da’s inlaying of stones. Dora is best known for her finely polished black and sienna carved pots with stone inlays. There are four of Dora’s pieces in the Flaherty Collection. Dora’s work is in a number of major museum collections as well as private collections.
In 1980 on Flaherty’s first trip to the Land of Enchantment, the pottery of San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and Acoma captivated her immediately. Early on, Flaherty returned to New Mexico and was privileged under a Recursos de Santa Fe program to visit potters in their homes to learn of their methods and spiritual approach to their pottery. This is how she initially met Dora and the Lewis sisters of Acoma.
Over a period of forty years, Flaherty continued to carefully collect, curate and catalog her collection. While the collection began with pottery of San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and Acoma, it grew to include examples from the Pueblos of Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Ohkay Owingeh, Santo Domingo, and Zuni, and the tribal communities of the Diné (Navajo), Maricopa, and Winnebago.
Flaherty felt early on that many of the outstanding women potters represented in the collection were not only artists but also cultural heritage entrepreneurs, that is, highly respected micro-economic engines empowering themselves, their families, and their communities through the sheer power of their artistry.
In the 1980s, Flaherty was first introduced to IARC vault collections by Susan Catherwood of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Along with the works themselves, the robust program of access to the works in the vault made a lasting impression, which ultimately led Flaherty to complete the gift of the collection to the IARC in April of 2022. On November 14, 2022, nine members of the Tse Pe’ family along with Flaherty visited the IARC to engage with the recent collection donation.
When not traveling or collecting, Flaherty enjoys a worldwide law practice based in Washington, DC, as a corporate and tax attorney for charities and major donors. She was the last of nine daughters born in 1955 in Pittsburgh. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband Kevin F. F. Quigley. She has one daughter, Fiona L. Q. Flaherty.