Wood Engraving Original Print Rattlers Southwest Native Hopi Snake Dance LE
Original Limited Edition Wood Engraving
Signed and numbered in pencil by the artist
In pristine/never framed condition (sold unmatted/unframed)
Designed, cut and hand-printed by the artist
ALL MATERIALS ARCHIVAL QUALITY AND PERMANENT
Chinese Lunar New Year Print 2001
Paper 8" x 6"
Image 7" x 5"
Paper: Fabriano Ivory
This wood engraving is based on the Hopi Snake Dance, although I took some liberty with the ceremony and based my dancers on a painting I saw some place. The block is Resingrave, oil based ink. Edition was 250, most of which was sent to Wood Engraver's Network Bundle #25, the rest to a Chinese Lunar New Year exchange among printmakers throughout the world.
"This is the supreme moment of mystery in the Snake Dance, the thaumaturgical climax of the whole Snake-Antelope ceremony. Never elsewhere does one hear such a sound, so deep and powerful it is. It assures those below that those above are dutifully carrying on the ceremony. It awakens the vibratory centers deep within the earth to resound along the world axis the same vibration. And to the four corners it carries to the long-lost white brother the message that he is not forgotten and that he must come. There is no mistaking its esoteric summons, For this is the mandatory call to the creative life force known elsewhere as Kundalini, latently coiled like a serpent in the lowest centers of the dual bodies of earth and man, to awaken and ascend to the throne of her Lord for the final consummation of their mystic marriage.
The power does come up. You can see it in the Antelopes standing now in one long line extending from the kísi. They are swaying slightly to the left and right like snakes, singing softly and shaking their antelope-testicle-skin-covered gourds as the power makes its slow ascent Then their bodies straighten, their voices rise.
The Snake chief at the same moment stoops in front of the kísi, then straightens up with a snake in his mouth. He holds it gently but firmly between his teeth, just below the head. With his left hand he holds the upper part of the snake's body level with his chest, and with the right hand the lower length of the snake level with his waist. This is said to be the proper manner of handling a snake during the dance. Immediately a second Snake priest steps up with a kwawiki or feathered snake whip in his right hand' with which to stroke the snake. He is commonly known as the guide, for his duty is to conduct the dancer in a circle around the plaza. As they move away from the km another dancer and his guide pause to pick out a snake, and so on, until even the small boy at the end is dancing with a snake in his mouth for the first time. It is a large rattlesnake, its flat birdlike head flattened against his cheek. All show the same easy familiarity with the snakes as they had with the squash vines the day before.
After dancing around the plaza the dancer removes the snake from his mouth and places it gently on the ground. Then he and his guide stop at the kísi for another snake. A third man, the snake-gatherer, now approaches the loose snake. It has coiled and is ready to strike. The gatherer watches it carefully, making no move until it uncoils and begins to wriggle quickly across the plaza. Then he dexterously picks it up, holds it aloft to show that it has not escaped into the crowd, and hands it to one of the Antelopes singing in the long line. The Antelope, smoothing its undulating body with his right hand, continues singing
So it goes on in a kind of mesmeric enchantment in the darkening afternoon. There is nothing exciting about these men dancing with snakes in their mouths-only a queer dignity that reveals how deeply they are immersed in the mystery, and a strange sense of power that seems to envelope them. The seashells with their slight, odd sound are calling to their mother water to come and replenish the earth. The song of the Antelopes is describing the clouds coming from the four directions, describing the rain falling. All the Hopis know that if it does not rain during the Home Dance of Niman Kachina rain will come with the Snake Dance. For this is the consummation of the union of the two universal polarities, the release of that mystic rain which recharges all the psychic centers of the body and renews the whole stream of life in man and earth alike."
Process: Wood engravings are made by drawing an image on a block of wood, usually end grain maple in my case, then carving out the negative spaces. After carving, what is left is a big "stamp" of the desired image. I roll ink with a roller over the woodcut, place a piece of handmade paper on the inked block, apply pressure and transfer the image on the paper. Signed Numbered Wood engraving Limited edtion Figures Surrealism 6 to 12 in
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