Buffalo Dancer by Pablita Velarde


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Pablita Velarde, Santa Clara Pueblo Painter

One of the special talents of renowned Santa Clara painter Pablita Velarde was taking lone figures from traditional ceremonies and capturing them in action in incredibly fine detail. She loved to paint historical scenes customary not only to her native Santa Clara Pueblo, but to other pueblos as well. They are part of the history she was so fond of and that was relayed to her by Old Grandfather the Storyteller.

In this scene of a buffalo dancer, Velarde has given the viewer a rich depiction of one of these dancers celebrating the relationship between the Native and the buffalo, more correctly known as the bison. Generally performed in winter, in this heartfelt tradition, the dancers take on the spirit of the buffalo that is so sacred and essential to the life of those at the pueblo. Throughout the year the buffalo is hunted for food, clothing, and shelter. It is believed by the Indians that one day they will trade places with these animals and sacrifice themselves for the good of those who need them.

A kilt is worn during Buffalo Dances, and Velarde has shown this dancer wearing a kilt with a turquoise snake painted on it, with tin cone tassels on the end. The dancer is seen with moccasins on his feet and red ties around his knees. Up top, he wears a buffalo headdress and carries a bow in his left hand and a rattle in his right. The dancer also wears numerous pieces of turquoise jewelry.

Behind this lone dancer is Velarde's usual casein representation of a Southwestern sky. The way she does this is always remarkable, as she uses thousands of assorted colored dots to create an overall orangish-blue hue. There is a tranquility and mysticism that is often conveyed through the sky in the Southwest, which pairs well with the depth of the sacred Buffalo Dance.

Artist siganture of Pablita Velarde, Santa Clara PainterThe painting is signed in the lower right-hand corner Pablita Velarde 1997 and is framed in a beautiful and rustic wooden frame which fits the piece very appropriately.

Pablita Velarde (1918-2006) Tse Tsan (Golden Dawn) was an innovative and influential artist from Santa Clara Pueblo. Velarde was one of 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's works are included in many prominent public and private collections, and she is generally regarded as a significant figure in the world of Native American art. Velarde passed away in 2006.

Condition: excellent

Provenance: this Buffalo Dancer by Pablita Velarde is from the collection of an Albuquerque family estate

Recommended Reading: Stewart, Dorothy N. Handbook of Indian Dances I, New Mexico Pueblos. Published by Pictograph Press, Santa Fe, NM, 1950.

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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