A superlative buffalo table fetish/sculpture, carved from one solid piece of turquoise, by this Hawaiian/Zuni artist.
Now out of the military, he is hard at work creating marvelous, prize-winning fetishes.
Keli’i won both First and Second-place ribbons at the Northern Arizona Museum Show, recently.
This noteworthy buffalo carving conveys the massive strength and formidable bulk of the iconic animal but in an unexpected pose.
Rather than upright, in an imposing stance, this buffalo is lying down, taking a rest.
Carved from one rock containing Number 8 turquoise, the material is as unconventional as the pose.
The stone is mostly what would be called matrix, the base rock from which bits of turquoise are extracted.
However, the turquoise in this particular chunk of stone is too scattered, somewhat solid in places, but not entirely.
This distribution of turquoise mineral in the rock made for a very interesting stone; one side is mostly turquoise, while the other is mostly the “mother” rock, with patches of turquoise.
The entire stone has been nicely polished, and the soft contrast of taupe rock and vibrant, sky-blue turquoise is very effective. So is the carving.
Naturalistically proportioned, showing its large, heavy head and chest and powerful flanks, this buffalo is a wonderful rendition, realistic and artistic at the same time.
Notice the carving on his head, shoulders and back, evoking the thick, furry pelt that made the beast so valuable for bedding and robes.
His horns, his ears, his snubbed-nose muzzle – all are expertly depicted. Instead of looking menacing, or possibly aggressive, however, this quiet fellow looks friendly.
His big black onyx eyes give him a sweet, somewhat childlike look as if he is a Guardian-of-the-Plains-in-Training.
Maybe he is taking a moment to recuperate, after charging across the prairie with his mother and the rest of the herd.
In any case, this is a masterfully carved, beautifully detailed sculpture of an animal that is almost an American symbol.
Aside from the expert skill and artistic execution, the choice of material, with turquoise embedded in its base rock, is imaginative, handsome, and remarkable.