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Friday Feature: To Face a New World

The first Friday of the year, and and the year is still very much “new.” Even Epiphany, the first great holy day of the dominant culture’s primary religious tradition, remains two days off. Tree up, snow down; midwinter, and the world here is cold indeed.

In this place, neither cold nor calendar is sufficient to stop the world’s turning, nor our work within it. On Tuesday, the Turtle Dance commenced in the village, beneath a curtain of heavy-falling snow. Most of the world is back to work, getting down to the business of winter, and to the obligations of the year to come.

It is time to face a new world, cold and daunting and filled with possibility.

For this month, in this particular space, I decided to focus on one specific series of works by one of Wings’s oldest friends in Native art world. There are four pieces in the series — perfect for a month’s worth of Fridays. In the past, I’ve typically featured them collectively, as an informal set, but there is one among them that suits this day, this week, this birth of new year and new world so well that I thought perhaps it was a sign: an indication that each work needs to be considered independently of the others, free to stand on its own merits and individual beauty.

Today’s feature is neither the largest of the series nor the most colorful, but it is the most unique in shape and shade. From its description in the Other Artists:  Sculpture gallery here on the site:

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. Figure stands about 5″ high (dimensions approximate).

Pink sandstone; macaw feather bundles
$325 + shipping, handling, and insurance
Weight requires special handling; extra shipping charges apply

Of the four works in this series, this has always been my favorite. Part of it is the colors of the headdress, of course: my beloved indigos and emeralds, the same shades found in the stone at the center of Wednesday’s featured work. Part of it is her form and shape, so different from the other three in the collection. And part of it is what that difference implies: not precisely shyness or trepidation, not even caution, really; more, perhaps, a sense of humility in the face of the vastness of the creation, of the cosmic power of the spirits. She seems awed, just a bit, by her surroundings, turning to face a new world that is simultaneously old and timeless — as though she recognizes that she stands at a threshold of incredible power and possibility.

We stand there too, now. Yesterday, the rest of the world watched as one small piece of that possibility took its place on the political front. But it’s only the smallest of beginnings, the easy part. The hard work remains to be done at the most humble levels, where our feet meet the earth.

We have a hard cold path ahead of us, one wide open with opportunity, with the chance to build a better world.

This small spirit stands still, stands watch. For us, it’s time to begin the journey.

~ Aji








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