This artist is both Hawaiian and Zuni, so a sea turtle fetish carving is no surprise.
Now out of the military, and hard at work creating marvelous, prize-winning fetishes, Keli’i won both First and Second-place ribbons at the Northern Arizona Museum Show, last year.
Sea turtles are revered by Hawaiian natives, just as less majestic turtles are, at Zuni.
The massive size and formidable bulk of the animal are masterfully conveyed in an unusual, fabulously dramatic stone.
This “Bumblebee” jasper combines vibrant, golden yellows and greyish greens in one, striking chunk.
The exceptionally naturalistic and detailed carving shows the sea turtle seemingly floating up from the rocky ocean bottom,
Flippers, feet, head, tail, and monumental shell are carefully carved, and beautifully polished.
Look at the wrinkled neck, the curved mouth, the detail on the back feet, and, of course, the marvelous, domed and segmented shell on the back.
For added color, natural coral is set into the head, for the eyes – the only un-natural, but nevertheless handsome, touch.
The proportions are realistic, and the coloration of the stone suggests the seaweedy dun color of the animal, as well as the sunlit tropical waters it occupies.
Carving the turtle on the diagonal lends the sculpture a feeling of languid movement, rather than a static pose.
A wonderful rendition, realistic and artistic at the same time.
The base is left appropriately rough and rugged, like the lava rocks that line the beaches of Hawaii.
With the beauty of the stone and the talent of the carving, this turtle is a splendid table piece; a small but impressive sculpture that goes beyond its status as a fetish.
This is a real collector’s item: a synthesis of two cultures that seem so different – from ocean islands to a desert village – yet some traditions are shared.