Untitled Painting of Very Large Dance Scenes


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José Encarnacion Peña, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter

José Encarnacion Peña (1902-1979) Soqween - So Kwa A Weh (Frost on the Mountain) was one of the students of Dorothy Dunn at The Studio of the Santa Fe Indian School in the early 1930s. He had started painting well before then, though—as early as the 1920s.  He continued until his death in 1979. His Tewa name was Soqween, though it appeared on his painting in various spellings. Soqween translates to “Frost on the Mountain.” Those who remember him in his later years recall that he was usually referred to as “Enky.”

Peña was painting at San Ildefonso Pueblo at the same time as Tonita PeñaRicahard MartínezLuís GonzalesAbel Sánchez, and Romando Vigil.  In his early years, he was not as prolific as his peers. It was during the last ten years of his life that he became productive. He is represented in the collections of the Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe; Museum of New Mexico; Denver Art Museum; and many others.

Though similar in spirit, Soqween’s works are very different from those of his contemporaries.  His works are simple, often using just two or three colors. His outlines, often done in light grey, are less important to his compositions than the thick blocks of bold colors with which they are filled.  These blocks of color are the tools with which he composed his subjects: Pueblo dancers, in traditional regalia, often viewed head-on instead of in profile. Soqween’s style is a simple, charming, and unusual variation of the “flat” style that he and his peers were taught at the Santa Fe Indian School.

This untitled painting is the largest and most elaborate Soqween painting that Adobe Gallery has ever handled.  It contains six rows of seven dancers each, for a total of 42 dancers. Each is depicted, as is Soqween’s style, head on.  Red, yellow, and green watercolors were the artist’s tools here, giving the image a bright and vibrant feel. Brown was used, too, in the dancer’s faces and moccasins.  In what was likely a laborious process, impressive detail was paid to their kilts and evergreen boughs. Their feathered headpieces, too, are composed very skillfully. It feels as if the viewer has an aerial view of the proceedings but is just close enough to see the details of the dancers’ garb.  It’s a very special piece from one of the most uniquely talented San Ildefonso Pueblo painters.

The painting is framed beautifully.  It is unsigned but is without question the work of José Encarnacion Peña.

Condition: this Untitled Painting of Very Large Dance Scenes is in excellent original condition.

Provenance: from the large collection of a Santa Fe resident who is downsizing

Recommended Reading:  American Indian Painting of the Southwest and Plains Areas by Dorothy Dunn (1903-1992)

Close up view of section of painting.

José Encarnacion Peña, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter
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