Bear by Stewart Quandelacy
In the nearly 50 years since the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology has been in its present location, the Museum has hosted approximately 150 temporary exhibitions. Over the next few weeks, we will look back at some of them.
The 1991 exhibition The Fetish Carver of Zuni, resulted from a collaboration between James Ostler, Manager of Pueblo of Zuni Arts and Crafts and Maxwell Museum Ethnology Curator Marian Rodee. The exhibition featured more than 130 fetishes, including eight on loan from the Smithsonian that had been acquired by Frank Hamilton Cushing in the 1870s.
These small stone and shell sculptures are carved on a variety of hard stones, shell, and fossils. Traditionally, they depict powerful animals important in Zuni (A:Shiwi) beliefs that have powers to protect or aid their owners.
Most of the pieces in the exhibition were contemporary, carved by talented artists who produce fetishes for sale and use within the community. The exhibition also included photographs and the words of carvers, who described their work and its significance. Pieces were organized by family, because as Rodee noted in the press release for the exhibition “Art is a family business at Zuni,” and the exhibition encouraged visitors to look closely at the work of individual carvers and stylistic relations to the work of other family members.
The exhibition was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Pueblo of Zuni and Maxwell Museum. Curators Rodee and Ostler authored an major book The Fetish Carvers of Zuni, which is still available in the Maxwell Museum gift shop. The Maxwell continues to work with individual carvers and features their work in our gift shop.