Daniel is an award-winning fetish carver, with work in museum collections, as well.
He is noted for his Corn Maidens, often carved into seashells, but this one is exceptionally large and exceptionally lovely.
Corn Maidens symbolize prosperity, good health, and happiness.
A large, natural conch shell has a beautiful, rosy coloration, ranging from creamy white to deep pink, with areas of coral-peach.
The lovely hues are entirely natural. The artist has upended the shell, so that it comes to a rounded peak at the top, perfect for carving the head of the main Corn Maiden.
She follows the tapered form of the shell, with meticulously etched kernels in her body, which seems to emerge from an embrace of husks – or, perhaps a blanket.
Her hair is also finely etched, and her features are abstract but accentuated with black jet.
A round, limpid green tourmaline sits at her throat, with a small sugilite inlaid in the etched diamond shape near the bottom.
Three other Corn Maidens are etched, all around the shell. Each of them has features that are inlaid with jet.
One has a red coral at her throat; one has a small blue turquoise, and the one at the back, has a larger blue turquoise at her throat.
Between the Maiden in the back, and the one with coral, a tiny dark blue lapis is set within another etched triangle.
The triangles refer to arrowheads, symbolizing protection and strength.
Coral symbolizes the earth; turquoise, lapis, and sugilite – cool colors all – represent the sky and water.
The green tourmaline is the color of thriving crops.
On the other side, there is a lustrous pearl, a symbol of the sea, and a gracefully etched dragonfly emphasized with jet.
There are more subtle dragonflies etched on either side of the other three Corn Maidens. These are left un-blackened.
Dragonflies live above and around water, so are potent symbols of good luck, since water is necessary for crops to grow.
Corn is the staff of life, for southwestern tribes, and water is the source of all life.
These etched dragonflies and Corn Maidens are visual prayers for enough water to support an abundant harvest.
This is especially needed by Zuni farmers, who lack irrigation and depend on rainfall.
A finely executed, creative new form to express age-old tradition, by an established master.