Dan Quam, half-brother of Wilfred and his siblings, innovated realistic, detailed fetish carvings in the 1980’s.
Now, Wilfred, and the other Cheamas, form one of the most distinguished carving families in Zuni, garnering many, many awards for this style.
Mountain lions are Guardians of the North, in Zuni culture, protecting and guarding hunters, travelers, and those who carry their fetish.
This marvelous mountain lion exhibits the naturalism and detailed carving skill the artist is known for.
Picasso marble has been adroitly carved, so that the darkest part of the stone covers the head, on one side, and the flank, on the other.
Despite its relatively small size, the head and muzzle of the animal is scrupulously realistic, and the entire body is carved to simulate fur.
In a nod to tradition, and modern tools, the animal’s tail curls up almost over its back, but is carved out and tapered.
Zuni carvers were restricted to use simple rasps and files, before the advent of modern-day tools, so the tail formed a central ridge, over the mountain lion’s back. Otherwise, it would have broken off.
Now, the tails are often cut out, tapered, thrown over the back, or hanging loose, as seen here.
Turquoise blue eyes liven up the dun-colored stone, and the alert crouch gives the fetish a wonderful tension and energy.