A Little Known Zuni Art Form

During what I have dubbed the “Golden Age” in Zuni—the Forties and Fifties—there were many artists  who did it all, finally picking the talent most lucrative—usually jewelry work. Even then they often still had to have a “real” job to support their families.

         Teddy Weahkee is one artist in this group and Anthony (Tony) Edaaki is another.  Teddy was already doing renderings of Kokos (katsinas) in the early thirties and at that time it was still forbidden.  He got a lot of censure from the medicine men at the time.  He is probably best known for his paintings on hides, harking back to the time before Anglo influence 

Tony was born in 1927 and seems to have pursued all of his artistic skills until his passing in 1989.  Gregory Schaaf even gives him two biographical entries in American Indian Jewelry Vol.2.  One of his siblings is usually left out of his illustrious family, sister Lolepa (called Lolita) who was also and important jeweler.

Anthony Edaakie Collage

         Nobody knows which talent Anthony pursued first, but he worked in tempera, watercolor, acrylic and murals.  The latest word on his motel murals in Albuquerque—they will be destroyed when C. G. Wallace’s De Anza motel comes down.  He had a unique take on painting, creating what we call collages, but different from the works usually given this name.  On the painting he glued cloth, often padded, feathers, sticks and other things, but he also carved out wooden parts of the figure.  

These are more bas-relief than collage.  Call them high relief.  But both of those forms ordinarily use a single material, stone or metal.  Tony’s works are like a partial katsina carving glued to a board and then “dressed.”  Duane Dishta told me once that these pieces by Tony inspired him to become an artist.  Duane did the collage pictured here in 1965.

Edaaki favored the eagle dancer for his works, and there are still a number in Zuni.  His paintings of that Koko are found in several mediums.  It is possible he liked the eagle dancer because when they appear they come as a pair.  There are several examples of this katsina in Zuni including one very large pair framed together.  There is no evidence that he ever sold these pieces to the outside world, though some surely made it into collections.

Zuni Shalako Collage

Duane Dishta was another of the masters who worked in every medium.  The one collage of his I have seen is painting on board, decorated with feathers and felt with a minimum of wood.  In the sixties Duane was one of the best doll carvers in Zuni, and painted all the figures for the book on Zuni by Barton Wright. He had done the original paintings for a teacher in Zuni.  He said he only got a couple of bucks apiece.  They later sold to a high end collector and were given to the Southwest Museum in L. A. which led to the book.

I asked him once if the publishers paid him for using the paintings.  He thought for a minute and said, “They gave me six copies of the book.”

A little known artist in Zuni was the half-Hopi Courtney Mahkee.  He carved dolls to sell, but his eagle dancer collages are quite pleasing.  They face each other in two folk-art frames.  These pieces don’t have a lot of dressing, being painted wood half-dolls.

Another example by Edaaki

There are not many surviving examples of this Zuni art form and they have become treasured.  Most of these I know of were created in the fifties, and I have never seen one outside the village.  I’m sure some have gotten into Anglo collections, but I don’t know of a single example.  This seems to have been Zuni art for the Zunis.

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