Navajo folk art emerged from necessity. Way out on the desert, far from toy stores — if any store-bought toy were even affordable – parents and children had to fashion their own playthings from whatever was available and expendable.
Many toys were sculpted crudely from mud, and sun-dried, but scraps of wood were also carved. They mostly reflected the world around: horses, sheep, riders, animals, etc.
After a book about Navajo Folk art was published, it became a collectible art form.
Now, Navajo folk art has found an appreciative audience all over the world, far from the reservation. It tickles us with its dry commentary on human foibles, as the artist sees it.
Here, we have a lavishly detailed and colorful carving of a favorite Navajo past time, the local rodeo.
With black hat and silver hatband, leather chaps over blue jeans, vest, decorative shirt, and fancy boots, this cowboy is typical.
However, notice the six-shooter in a holster, too. His saddle is ornate, with a colorful woven saddle blanket beneath it.
He is all dressed up for a rodeo? With a gun? Must be a Hollywood cowboy.
Sitting high in the saddle, one arm raised in appropriate bull-riding style, he seems pleased with his ride; not a bull, but a longhorn steer.
The steer looks less than pleased with this dude but is carved and painted with equal panache.
Playful and witty, this piece is serious in carving ability and decorative, exuberant painting.
A marvelous piece of folk art, by an acknowledged leader of the genre.