In the recent book Leekya: Master Carver of Zuni Puebloby Deborah Slaney, Leekya’s grandchildren don’t get much attention. Of course the book is about Old Man Leekya but the examples of work by the grandsons are not very representative of their extraordinary work.
In the second generation only Sarah, Alice and Francis seem to be fetish carvers and Francis only turned to carving in his advanced years, after he had a stroke. He carved left-handed. Among his sons Freddie, Hayes & Delvin are master carvers.
Though all of Leekya’s descendants have carved Leekya’s grinning bears--plump, happy, and charming—none actually copy his work. Hayes can do stringing fetishes; especially the distinctive bears that look a great deal like the Old Man’s work. Dealers have sometimes banked on this resemblance.
Like most Zunis, Freddie began working at a young age, educating himself by observing his father and grandfather. But Freddie carries the tradition to produce new, very original, and surprising carvings. His mini-sculptures have moved into a fanciful world of dancing or playful frogs, gorillas and other exotic creatures, howling coyotes, Zuni dancers and men on horseback. One fat pig seems to be puckering up for a kiss.
His frogs run the gamut of possibilities. They are seldom just water animals and even when they look just like frogs, they are presented in an original way, like the small frog riding a large one. He has made frog Boy Scouts, frog hikers, frog people holding coffee mugs, books, a flower, and a sandwich.
He also does familiar animals like bobcats, beavers, some charming raccoons, bulls, horses and wonderful buffalo. Like other carvers in his class he works at his art every day
Freddie married April Unkestine at a young age and they have been together ever since. April inherited an original sunface design that she has modified with ever-tinier stonework. Recently she made a concho belt that takes the breath away with its color and design.
It is not surprising that son Enrique carries on a tradition of excellence, imagination and originality. Though he does familiar animals, he often puts a twist on them, like his Valentine raccoons. But he also ventures into the exotic with tropical fish, African lions, a marvelous hippo, and a ferocious looking boar.
In order to solve the problem of the fragility of his fanciful pieces, he has developed removable parts, mainly allowing him to do exaggerated horns on some of his carvings, longhorns, moose, and elk. Recently he carved the local rodent, the kangaroo rat. They are mice, not rats, and they can be seen at night hopping in great leaps, trailing a long tail. Enrique creates these horns and tails out of carved cedar, and they are removable. Some dealers and collectors pass on pieces of great fragility: problem solved.
They still make involved figures with some extras. Freddy puts necklaces on many of his carvings and objects in their hands, like the chief who plays flute or carries a peace pipe. Enrique has done some hunters that have great detail, like a dear over the shoulder with white shell antlers. The man carries a knife on his belt.
Oversized, expressive eyes are a mark of their work, as well as jet hooves, added noses, and other touches. They are also pricing their work in a range that keeps them very collectable.
Both Freddy and Enrique have done Old Man Leekya proud.