Published: August 13, 2002
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The Thaw Collection, comprising more than 800 pieces of American Indian art selected for their outstanding qualities of design, craftsmanship and artistic expression, recently added two new acquisitions. The collection is housed in the American Indian Wing of Fenimore Art Museum, an 18,000-square-foot addition completed in 1995.
Women artists figure prominently in the collection’s recent acquisitions, including an intricately coiled gambling tray from Northern California that dates from 1900 and measures 31 inches in diameter, woven by Mrs Dick Francisco (Las-Yeh). Native Ameri-can women in California made some of the world’s most impressive baskets and Yokuts gambling trays such as this one rank high in such achievements.
Yokuts weavers took great pride in their gambling trays, bringing out their finest ones when women gathered to play dice games. It often took them a year or more to weave such a piece. Francisco, a master of the art form, wove this extraordinary gambling tray around the turn-of-the-Twentieth Century. Francisco used marsh grass as a warm brown background. She contrasted redbud shoots and black-dyed bracken fern root to create the alternating bands of human and rattlesnake motifs as well as other geometric elements.
Another addition to the collection is a life-size acrylic painted pony entitled “Lightning Bolt Colt” by Choctaw artist Dyanne Strongbow. The outdoor sculpture currently on view on the Fenimore Art Museum terrace, is made of epoxy resin, steel and paint, and was one of 250 included in Santa Fe’s Painted Ponies art event in 2001.
On this sculpture, the artist has painted jagged white lightning bolts blazing across dark storm-laden skies, and running down each of the colt’s legs. By contrast, on the horse’s face and head she has rendered a golden sunset. The artist was likely inspired by the work of Nineteenth Century Plains Indian warriors who painted lightning bolts on their war horses’ legs to symbolize power and strength. Plains warriors documented this practice in the late Nineteenth Century when they began to draw images of their war exploits on paper.
“Lightning Bolt Colt” is the gift of Eugene and Clare Thaw, and is now part of the Thaw Collection of American Indian Art at Fenimore Art Museum.
Fenimore Art Museum is on Lake Road, Route 80, one mile north of the village of Cooperstown. For information, 1-888-547-1450 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org.
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