Herbert Him’s detailed animal carvings have given him a notable reputation as an important, award-winning, Zuni carver. Each of his carvings display all the realistic physical characteristics of the animal, whether tiny or imposing in size.
This extraordinary piece transcends the genre of fetish and is really a table-sized sculpture, albeit completely traditional in symbolism and design.
Frog carvings go back to pre-historic times, so their importance as a rain-bringing fetish animal is deeply rooted in tradition. As an extension of rain and water, they are also symbols of abundance and fertility; water is the source of life.
This stunning sculpture displays the frog, Kokopelli (who blows the seeds that become all living things), a ceremonial corn pollen basket, a vigorous cornstalk, and several little tadpoles, on an architectural base resembling the brickwork of ancient ruins.
All these disparate and clearly defined elements are carved by hand, out of one large block of natural serpentine!
The base is entirely covered in individually carved “bricks”, with the water spiral, lightning, star, and cross symbols etched into broad arches on either side. These mean that the blessings of water are meant to stretch to the four corners of the earth.
A large and perfectly naturalistic frog sits atop the arched structure, his bright blue turquoise eyes alert to all he is guarding. A bowl or basket – whose stepped sides refer to rain – protrudes from his back, to hold the ceremonial corn pollen that accompanies prayers.
It also serves the structural purpose of supporting the cut-out feather that tops the beautifully realized cornstalk at the rear of the piece. Notice how every kernel on the little ears of corn are all carefully carved, complementing the larger brick forms, while the graceful corn leaves are polished to gleam in contrast.
The frog has his flippers on the shoulder and head of Kokopelli, just below him. This figure is smoothly polished, in contrast to the textured aspect of the bricks, corn ears, frog, etc. See how the toes and fingers of Kokopelli are clearly shown, in human proportion.
Draped over the frog’s back, and front legs, are four sinuous, polished tadpoles, with blue turquoise eyes that match their sire’s (or mother’s?).
Besides being a major achievement in carving, this piece is a complete exhibition of the meaning and role of frogs, symbolizing water, and Kokopelli, engendering the seeds that help corn grow.
From time immemorial, water and corn symbolize happiness, good health, abundance, and all good things.
There can be no doubt that this incredible one-piece carving is also a very good thing.