Merina Lujan, Pop Chalee, Taos Pueblo Painting
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Pop Chalee was known for her whimsical interpretations of animal and forest scenes executed in bold, bright colors. She studied in the 1930s at the Santa Fe Indian School under the tutelage of Dorothy Dunn, whose influence is quite apparent in her work as she created traditional two-dimensional scenes of animals and everyday pueblo life. However, she veered away from Dunn's more conservative interpretations of Native life with her use of color and expressive creature designs. She displayed extreme delicacy in drawing and a delightfully imaginative touch in her creations. Highly stylized though much of her drawing is, charm remains in the exquisite touch of lacy trees and the filminess of horses' manes and tails.
Merina Lujan (1906-1993) Pop Chalee - Blue Flower was born in Castle Rock, Utah, to a Taos Pueblo father and an East Indian Mother. She spent most of her adult life away from Taos Pueblo, mostly in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She long ago developed a unique style of painting which combines Asian and American Indian motifs. Accused of painting in the "Bambi Style" she explained that it was the other way around—Walt Disney Studios painted in her style. At one time Walt Disney visited Santa Fe and unsuccessfully tried to recruit Indian painters to work in his studio. Before returning to California, he purchased one of her forest scenes. It was her belief that one of her deer was the inspiration for Bambi. (Seymour 1988)
Reference and Recommended Reading: The World of Flower Blue, Margaret Cesa
When The Rainbow Touches Down, Tryntje Van Ness Seymour
More Recommended Reading: there is a wonderful article “Preserving Pop Chalee” By ABQ Journal News Staff, Published Friday, June 16th, 2017 (click here to view now – this will take you to their website).