Eagle Dancer in Flight by Pablita Velarde


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Pablita Velarde, Santa Clara Pueblo Painter

Eagle Dancer in Flight: A Majestic Testament to Pueblo Indian Rituals by Pablita Velarde

Measuring an impressive 40" by 36" when framed, Pablita Velarde's "Eagle Dancer in Flight" stands as a monumental work in her illustrious career. This exceptional piece captures the revered Eagle Dancer mid-flight during a sacred Pueblo Indian ritual. This dance is a time-honored tradition where the Pueblo Indians express gratitude and seek blessings, particularly for rain. The eagle, considered a divine messenger, bridges the gap between Heaven and Earth, believed to soar high enough to deliver prayers, needs, and thanksgivings to the katsinas. This ceremony likely traces back thousands of years.

The painting is set against a vibrant, multi-colored backdrop. The dominant colors are hues of greenish-yellow, layered with a spectrum of colors like blue, red, and purple. These colors are atomized, a technique of spraying paint onto the paper or board, creating a captivating texture over the background. This technique was often employed by Velarde's daughter, Helen Hardin.

The Eagle Dancer is depicted with arms outstretched, seemingly in flight. During the Eagle Dance, it is said that the wings should never touch the ground. Velarde's meticulous attention to detail brings the dancer to life, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the characterization. The dancer dons the eagle's head, painted with intricate detail. The wings feature raised bumps of red and gray, extending into feathers lining the outside. The dancer is adorned with a turquoise necklace, a gemstone cherished throughout the Southwest, a red sash, a leather and silver belt, and beautifully woven leggings featuring a design of what appears to be a turquoise-colored dragon. Feathers encircle the dancer's ankles, and his feet are captured mid-motion, lifting off the ground as he ascends.

While Velarde often painted single figures participating in the profound dances of Santa Clara Pueblo, it was rare for her to depict one of these honorable figures in such a large format. This gives viewers the privilege of witnessing an incredibly detailed and stylized impression of the dancer. This painting truly showcases the depth of character and sophistication of those who participate in this timeless, sacred tradition, a testament to the remarkable culture of these people.

Artist signature of Pablita Velarde, Santa Clara PainterThe painting is signed Pablita Velarde 1992 in lower left. It is framed in a silver colored frame, which very appropriately compliments the piece.

Pablita Velarde (1918-2006) Tse Tsan (Golden Dawn) was an innovative and influential artist from Santa Clara Pueblo. Velarde was among the first full-time female students in Dorothy Dunn's art class at the Santa Fe Indian School, where she studied alongside Tonita Peña. These two women are regarded as the first Native American women to support themselves as painters, but it's not just because of this that they are remembered so fondly. It's because of the quality of their works that they have remained so visible in the many years since they have passed. Velarde passed away in 2006.

Condition: excellent condition

Provenance: Eagle Dancer in Flight by Pablita Velarde is from a Private collection

Recommended Reading: Changing Woman: The Life and Art of Helen Hardin by Jay Scott

TAGS: Native American PaintingsSanta Clara PuebloTonita PeñawatercolorHelen HardinNavajo NationPablita Velarde

Close-up view of a section of this painting.

Pablita Velarde, Santa Clara Pueblo Painter
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