Monday, December 24, 2007

Cheyenne Jim Storyteller on its way

Most artists have a certain style that, while occasionally varied, tends to identify their work beyond doubt. Among Native American potters, the stylistic differentiators show up in the choice of material, subject matter and design. For no artist is this more true than for Diane Lynn, a Navajo who works under the name, "Cheyenne Jim".

We have long been fans of Cheyenne Jim's work, which often is large and dominates any art setting. Until recently we had four in our collection. This month, this one began its journey to a new home.

Cheyenne Jim Navajo storyteller finds a new owner

For a little background, Cheyenne Jim is a Navajo, despite her name, who was raised on the Navajo Nation reservation following her birth in 1957. With a rich Navajo cultural tradition, reportedly going back to her childhood, when she is said to have been deeply impressed by a Yei Be Chei ceremony she attended with her Grandmother, a Navajo medicine woman.

Some say Cheyenne Jim's work is so distinctive that it does not reflect Native American influences. We disagree.
We find her choice of clay (often mica), her choice of subject matter (variations on the storyteller tradition) and her style of representation to be quintessentially Native American.

Her years as an art student at Bacone College in Muskogee, OK, appear to have influenced her artistic perspectives without seriously changing her original Navajo artistic sensibilities.

As these other Cheyenne Jim creations in our collection demonstrate, she has a style that is both very easy to empathize with and very distinctly hers.

For more information about Cheyenne Jim, we refer you to the following links.

We also invite you to view the many other storytellers available at
Navigate tot he Storyteller pages.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Santo Domingo Depression necklace offered on eBay

We have just posted a classic, vintage, Native American Santo Domingo Pueblo thunderbird necklace to eBay.
This necklace, which actually will not be posted until 5:45 tonight, is an excellent example of the work done by Santo Domingo women during and immediately after the Depression (ca 1930s-50s).

Since natural materials were hard to come by in the existing economic circumstances, the makers salvaged black composite from discarded auto batteries, phonograph records, broken bakelite shards, gypsum, colored plastic from combs and restaurant spoons and forks, and combined the materials with a mosaic inlay* of turquoise chips.

*In fact, it would be more apt to describe the mosaic as overlay since it was glued over the backing rather than inlaid into it.

These pieces were sold to travelers on the Santa Fe Railway when the trains stopped along the way in New Mexico. Original prices were as low as $1.

The Santo Domingo Pueblo is located just south of Santa Fe and may be accessed from Interstate 25. Today, it looks very much like it did back in the Depression days, except with newer model cars and upgraded homes. Today, however, Santo Domingo artists are doing spectacular jewelry work with finely cut and polished heishi, superb silversmithing and very detailed inlay of many natural materials, from turquoise to oyster shell.

Examples of contemporary Santo Domingo jewelry can be found at our Native-JewelryLink web site. Simply enter the search term Santo Domingo in the internal search engine, or click here for a singularly beautiful example.

The old depression-era thunderbird necklace is one of several we have collected. They will eventually be offered for sale. Watch this space, as they say, for more news.

Authored by William Ernest Waites, co-proprietor of, offering fine tribal art from Africa, Australia and the Arctic, and Navajo folk art;, featuring authentic Zuni, Cochiti, Navajo and San Felipe carvings;, home to a wide range of excellent Native American collector pottery and

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Small carving worth $57 million

News from Sotheby's is that a small, 3 1/4 inch carving of a lion that is attributed to Mesopotamia some 5,000 years ago, just sold at auction for $57 million, including the auctioneers commission. You read it right. Fifty-seven million dollars.

It is the most that has ever been bid for a sculpture, surpassing $29 million bid for a Picasso sculpture earlier this year.

For more info, check this out.

Now, place this in the context of beautiful carvings by Zuni and other Native American carvers. Makes them look like incredible bargains, eh?

Take a look at some of them at ZuniLink.

Are you wearing a mask?

Masks have played a role in human culture for ages. In tribal settings they have been used for communicating supernatural concepts, for providing community cohesiveness, for enforcing behavior and for artistic expression. Most African tribal cultures have masking traditions, including certain aesthetic values that help to identify the distinctiveness of the tribe or people.

Yet, mask carvers always have ventured beyond simply repeating an accepted design and into variations that reflect their individual sensitivities, visions and skills. As a result, African masks in particular have evolved with a variety that makes them very desirable to art collectors and, on a more commercial basis, for decor.

Today, masks are used in masquerades and costume parties mostly to entertain and assume a make-believe role. Once, they were considered a way to change or hide one's identity. This theme shows up in theater and literature, although common sense tells us that obscuring the face is a more fantastic than real way to disguise ones identity.

Now, masks have taken on a psychological dimension, References to "masking" as a way to change one's persona show up time and again in discussions of human psychology. As an aside, we at Aboriginals: Art of the First Person have had psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists acquire masks from our gallery collection, for use in their practices and as items for professional display.

We have recently encountered another blog with a well-written discussion of masks and the masking tradition here. We also encourage you to visit our web site at to see several masks representing different African tribal aesthetics.