Friday, November 18, 2011

Serpent Mound

Pre- Research

The Serpent Mound is the piece I found most interesting while flipping through the book. My first thoughts about this was who built this, and why did they build it. The lines created by the mound caught my eye and made me wonder how exactly it was made with such detail that can only be truly seen from high above. I wondered if this was a design made in respect for the dead or a monument to honor the gods. It also made me question if it was a burial mound like the less ornate mounds of Cahokia.


After researching the mound further in the Art Beyond the West book I discovered that the Serpent mound isn't a burial mound but an effigy mount representing the importance of animals in Adena rituals. The books relates it to the Nazca Geoglyphs and it is believed that it was built to be viewed by the gods. The serpent is in an unraveling coil design and appears to be swallowing a large egg. It was built nearing the end of the Hopewell period (about 1070 CE). This is one of the finest examples of a mound effigy in the Mid-West.

Post Research

My reaction after completing my research of the Serpent Mound still remains that of amazement. The research brought clarification as to what the mound was built for and its representation's significance. I am surprised to find that it is located in Ohio and that it is such a grand example of a mound effigy. I now feel that this work is much more important than I had originally thought.

Information from: Art Beyond the West  by Michael Kampen O'Riley

mpen O'Riley

Kunz Axe

As I flipped through the Art Beyond the West book for class this Kunz Axe really caught my eye. Instantly I was intrigued and wondered if it was some sort of spirit or ancestor pendant like that of the Maori and their Hei tiki pendants. Its rough expression brought questions to my mind. What did it stand for? What purpose did it have? What is it made out of? Stone or Jade? Its very geometric shapes puzzled me as it clearly had facial features and a curling mouth.

Further reading from the Art Beyond the West book gave me insight into this curious figurine. The Kunz Axe was made by the Olmec culture around 1000 BCE and carved out of jade. It is described as a "howling infant with feline eyes and mouth." The book refers to it as a were-jaguar. These pendants of hybrid creatures are said to have maybe represented spirits known by the Olmec's, some sort of lineage sign, or even shamans (or the equivalent in Olmec culture) who could be transformed into these different beasts like that of the Indians who wore coyote fur and were said to be able to transform in said animal for fast travel as a medicine man. Also it is said that these could appear to be apart of a writing system by using these figurines as forms of pictographs.

Post Research
The term "were-jaguar" in my opinion fits this piece very well as its face is contorted into a howl of yelling sort of pose and well as he slanted almond eyes that gave it a very feral look. I can understand now the slightly geometric shapes on its body if it was to be used as a pictograph in their culture. The overall "other worldly" vibe I get when looking at this jadeite carving makes me believe it is very likely these would have been used by shaman for transformation. It is also clearer to me now that this piece is made out of jade after all the other jadeite figures and pendants that I have seen.

Post by: Ashley Williams
Information found in: Art Beyond the West by Michael Kampen O'Riley

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Killer Whale

The Killer Whale by Bill Reid really stood out and caught my eye. The intricate carvings on the whale are very Native American in nature. The whale also has these large and jagged teeth which is not typical of an actual killer whale. The rather large fin on the back of the whale also strikes me as odd because while the back fin does stick out on a killer whale, it has been over exaggerated just as the teeth. I believe when this was constructed in 1984, it was not for any specific purpose except decoration.
In actuality, The Killer Whale by Bill Reid was in fact influenced by Native American culture, Haida to be exact. Reid's family were Haida artists and his Great Uncle was the final Haida artist to work within a traditional society. Reid worked to captivate a sense of purity and still use the traditional style of Haida art with out a direct copy of it. It is said that "the traditional Haida vocabulary of curved, flowing lines and crescent-shaped forms are the individual forms of the whale's anatomy is rendered in light of."
Post Research
After my research I found that the carvings on the whale were indeed Native American. Yet they were not just Native American decoration, but actually the Haida vocabulary intertwined on the surface of the whale. It was created out of bronze as a decoration over a pool in the Vancouver Aquarium. I was surprised to find that the decorations were in fact the vocabulary of the Haida people. It is such a wonderful piece and is there not only for decoration but actually an insight to a Native American culture that we may not have known otherwise.

Information courtesy of the following link
Picture courtesy of the following link.