A real treasure for traditionalists and modernists alike, this novel fetish carving represents all six of the Zuni directional guardian animals: mountain lion, Guardian of the North, bear, Guardian of the west, badger, Guardian of the South, wolf, Guardian of the East, eagle, Guardian of the Skies, and mole, Guardian of the Underground.
The artist, Jayne Quam, married into the extended Quandelacy-Westika-Quam family and has been carving, along with her husband, Lynn Quam, for nearly 40 years.
The animals are all traditional in carving style and colors; the arrangement on a large, beautiful swirl of so-called “cameo shell” is a contemporary innovation of the carver.
This slice of cameo shell is a piece of a large conch shell. the warm and subtly varied, golden-salmon hues complement the fetish animals. The natural shell is both heavily textured and ridged, and also smooth and gleamingly polished.
High atop the others, and somewhat larger, a dappled eagle sits on a large abalone shell arrowhead. the coral and turquoise medicine bundle also contains a tiny curl of a similar shell. Inlaid turquoise eyes give him an appropriately eagle-eyed gaze.
The mountain lion is of tawny-hued dolomite, with a similar medicine bundle of abalone shell, coral, lapis and shell. His tail is curled over his back, according with tradition, and his eyes are inlaid jet.
The turquoise bear follows tradition in his blue-ish color. Inlaid eyes of jet give him an alert gaze, and his medicine bundle is the same as all the other animals.
Richly red pipestone forms the low-crouching badger, abalone shell arrowhead and jet eyes gleaming. Next is the white wolf, carved from snowy alabaster, with his fluffy tail hanging down.
Lastly, is the black jet mole, denizen of the underground. He has no eyes, living always in the dark, but sports the same medicine bundle, featuring an iridescent abalone shell arrowhead.
Each Guardian animal is attached to the rim of the undulating, spiral of the cameo shell.
The variety of warm colors in the shell and the animals, punctuated with the turquoise, white and black of the bear, wolf and mole, creates a beautiful interplay.
This is a fascinating, unique table piece, both meticulously traditional and intriguingly innovative.