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Peter Shelton: Snake Dancer
(circa 1975 - rare)

16 1/2" total height

Long since closed to outside observers, this recreation gives us a rare glimpse into the spectacle that is the Snake Dance. While not technically a kachina, these figures are highly regarded religious leaders who conduct special ceremonies.

"This is the snake dancer who is one of the social dancers who used to appear in mid-August at several of the villages. During the dance performance the Snake priests, accompanied by the Antelope priests, dance with live rattlesnakes and/or bull snakes in their mouths.

The live snakes are referred to by the priests as their 'elder brothers.' These are obviously not dancers with 'faces' and therefore are not 'Kachinas.' Information in much greater detail can be found in the books Hopi Snake Ceremonies by Jesse Walter Fewkes, and Moki Snake Dance by Walter Hough, both from Avanyu Publishing.

In recent years the Snake Dance has only been performed at the Second Mesa villages of Mishongnovi and Shungopavi. There is no difference in the costumes between the First Mesa variety and any of the other mesas. This dance has been closed to non-Indians since 1986."

- Ricks, J. Brent, et al., Kachinas: Spirit Beings of the Hopi (114)

Although Peter Shelton was a kachina carver, he was also well known for his paintings. According to Southwest Indian Painting: A Changing Art by Clara Lee Tanner, pages 279-280:

Peter Shelton was born and received his early education in Oraibi [Hopi Third Mesa-Hopi spelling is Orayvi]. Later he attended the Santa Fe Indian School. His brother Henry is a fine kachina carver who does not paint, while Peter is better known as a painter but has carved some dolls.

Indeed, there is a suggestion of the kachina doll in some Peter Shelton paintings, for example in the stance of the wolf. Colors in his water-based paintings are more subdued but equally rich and as varied and bright as the poster paints used on the dolls. Shelton uses modeling in his painting figures, particularly in the body. Detail is excellent, as seen in the designs on kilts and other ceremonial dress, and the hair and claws on the Wolf Kachina. His Kachinas are often quite long-legged and slender. Some abstract painting has been done by Shelton in which he used Hopi symbolic deigns.

Special Collections

Now: $2,750.00
(plus sh/han)

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