Christine Alfery

Posted on March 02 2023


Featured image: Arizona Landscape

I tell stories and I create stories for all the works I create.  They are personal stories about my life.  I believe that stories are our wealth.  No money, diamonds, gold, silver or what have you but stories.  Our history.  Stories we create become our history.  I love hearing stories from others about their lives, and the lives of others who are important to them.

Recently I traveled to the southwest, Tubac, Phoenix, Santa Fe, Sedona and Taos.  I hopped in the galleries of all those towns, asking about the stories the artists were telling in their work, both 3 dimensional and 2 dimensional.  At first I tried to visually read the artists' stories but then I found that I needed to do some research so I started asking questions about the artists' visual languages. I researched and bought books on the visual symbolism in their works.  I am still researching – their pictographs, their symbols that they put on their clothing, drums, shields and decorations.  

I was especially drawn to their fetishes.  The first fetish I saw and bought, just because I liked it – turned out to be a major piece. There were 5 fetishes tied on to the back of a mole.  The story here within this carving is that it is a directional fetish. Each of the five fetishes are different colors and different animals, I haven’t been able to identify all the animals but there is a bear, a wolf, and a bird. The yellow fetish is north, the blue one is west, the red one is south, the white one is east and the multicolored one is for sky.  The black mole represents the Idiwan’a – the Middle Place. How likely is it that I would get this sculpture that talks about the Middle Place which I talk about all the time.  The Middle Place is where all Zuni live under the mole's heart. Vital blessings come from each of the directions, the Zuni River flowing into the village from the northeast, the summer rains from the southeast, and the winter snow from the northwest. 

And another one was of two ravens tied together with a turquoise piece on their backs, the fetish.  The women who sold me the work told me about the differences between ravens and crows, or black birds.  Ravens mate for life, crows do not.  Ravens travel along or with their other crows do not they travel in clusters, groups.  I loved the story.  And I loved that the story was being told over and over again.  For me that is what art is all about – the stories, mine and the other viewers of a work.  Stories, our histories.  Just glorious.

Returning home, I am beginning to read all the books I picked up along the way. I am re-immersing myself into their culture.  It is hard because I felt differently when I was there.  Loving their culture and what they were saying.  I know my future work will reflect this trip for a long time – my head is just spinning. First thing will be sketches of Ravens in different postures.  I am lucky to have two ravens visit my feeder almost every day.  I am so excited about it.

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