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Friday Feature: Like Sand Become Art

Mak Swazo Hinds Corn Maiden Sculptures

To the outside world, this is Good Friday, a day to close up shop early (or not come in at all); a day in a town not far south of here for the annual Low-Rider Parade; a day for Catholic pilgrims from all over the state to make their sojourn to the ancient place known as Chimayó.

For us, it is one of those things, and yet there is a still a sense of observance attached to it, underneath which lies a deeper sense of sacredness.

It is a time haunted by recent ghosts of colonial origin, yes, but it is also one in which far more ancient and local spirits awaken and return to life.

It is a time of the land’s rebirth.

On this day, a trickster wind is the dominant force — fitting, no doubt, for a high holy day of a colonial tradition. But beneath its noise and bluster, the soil is busy coming back to life, propelling the green blades upward, nurturing the buds high up on the trees. The snows of days only recently past have left the earth soft and loamy, ready for tilling . . . and soon, for planting.

Here, we plant multiple gardens, some for food and some for flowers and some for herbs and medicine, but we always return to the fundamentals: The Three Sisters, the corn, beans, and squash that have sustained our peoples since the dawn of time. And here, as in so many other parts of this ancient indigenous land, the First Sister is the one who holds pride of place in tradition.

If water is life in this place, so, too, is corn.

Large Sandstone Corn Maiden

Corn is woven so thoroughly into our ways that life without it, its sustenance in physical, spiritual, ceremonial, and even artistic terms, is unthinkable. Here in this part of the world she has her own spirit beings, the Corn Maidens, whose purpose and existence are inextricably intertwined with the ancient multihued kernels, tiny jewels in their own right. They dress and dance at feast days; they exist, too, in a plane of their own.

And in this place, they are both subject and object of a nearly-unlimited array of Native art forms.

Today’s featured work is actually a small series of works: four, to be exact. Each is its own sculpture — small, yet full-sized; these are not fetish carvings. Each takes the form of a Corn Maiden, each unique in size, expression, and color accents. And yet, they seem also to belong together, as their kind are wont to do. From their description in the Other Artists:  Sculpture gallery here on the site:

Medium Sandstone Corn Maiden

Master carver Mark Swazo-Hinds (Tesuque Pueblo) coaxes stylized Corn Maidens from plain smooth blocks of stone.  Each is hand-carved from very pale, very fine pink sandstone, almost a translucent peach in color.  With surfaces so smooth you can hardly keep from touching them, they feel a bit like large worry stones.  In lieu of the traditional tablita headdress, each wears Mark’s trademark bundle of brilliantly-hued macaw feathers. All dimensions are approximate:  The two smaller ones are in the 3″-4″ high range; the largest is about 6″; the one in the back on the far right is about 5″ high, and is narrower — almost an inverted teardrop shape.

Pink sandstone; macaw feather bundles
Far left: $275 + shipping, handling, and insurance
Middle: $425 + shipping, handling, and insurance
Far right: $275 + shipping, handling, and insurance
Back: $325 + shipping, handling, and insurance
Weight requires special handling; extra shipping charges apply

This series, each wrought by a master, seem especially well-suited to this day and season. Like the corn they represent, each emerges out of the earth itself. And like the whole world at this time, they are pale, almost neutral in color — yet lit from within by a warm sunny glow, like an early spring day wrapped in a cool blanket, but holding close the promise of warm winds to come.

Small Sandstone Corn Maiden Multi-Colored

Their feathered headdresses hint at such hopes, too, a mix of the bright orange suns and vibrant-hued blossoms that are the hallmark of summer. More, they are the promise of the harvest, realized: Indian corn in every imaginable combination of colors, brilliant, intense, and abundant.

Small Sandstone Corn Maiden Orange

These small, spirit-infused works are earthy in the fullest sense of the word, a reminder that beneath pale soil lies fire, and from muted earth comes extraordinary beauty.

It is not time to plant the corn, not yet. Now is the time to prepare the earth, to till and cultivate and make the land ready. If we do so in the old way, attentively and with care, we have the chance to sow for an abundant harvest: seeds become jewels, like sand become art.

~ Aji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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error: All content copyright Wings & Aji; all rights reserved. Copying or any other use prohibited without the express written consent of the owners.