From Bare Feet to Bear Feet: Carved Turquoise 1930-2000

We are pleased to present a small collection of carved turquoise from some of the most renowned names in 20th century Native art.

For hundreds of years, inhabitants of Zuni fashioned bears, frogs, foxes and other animals from stones, rocks and shells for spiritual, personal and religious use.

Beginning in the early 20th century, a cohort of artists from Zuni Pueblo began carving a menagerie of animals from turquoise, coral and shell, with the intention of selling them to traders and tourists. Using a combination of traditional techniques as well as modern equipment, these sculptural works, from artists such as Leekya, Teddy Weahkee, Dan Simplicio and many others took a variety of forms, from tabletop effigies to wearable art.

Not confined to the artistry of Zuni Pueblo, many different carvers chose to accentuate the natural beauty of turquoise with embellishments of their own. Some artists took a more abstract approach, finding inspiration in the natural shape of the stone, carefully contouring and faceting the turquoise to accentuate its angles and catch the light.