This is a small Hopi/Tewa clay effigy, a form not often seen at First Mesa. Its size, shape and subject are more often seen as carved stone fetishs from Zuni. It is included in this collection since its maker, Kenneth Lynch, is the son of Nyla Sahmie. A 1983 exhibit at Adobe Gallery (Albuquerque) showed a small ladle by Kenneth (Alexander,Jr, 1983:11, #36). This bear effigy is only the second pottery item I have seen by him.
The form is defined by arches: the 2.37-inch arch of his back and the 0.8125-inch arch below. The surfaces below his head and under his tail are also smoothly curved; the point of his snout and his tail rounded projections. When seen from above, the body narrows only slightly to form the head and tail. The legs are simply pillars. The surface of the effigy is smoothly polished with slight blushing from the firing around the shoulder on one side and somewhat darker blushing on the opposite flank.
The face is defined by ovoid circles containing a dot for the eyes and a simple line for the mouth. Around its waist is a belt defined by two parallel lines 0.1875-inches apart. Inscribed on the belt is a design consisting of two half circles (“gumdrops”), their bases parallel, with a single line between the halves, forming a two-lane “highway.” This design is repeated four times on the upper surface of the belt. Each side of the bear displays two renditions of this design, but the design on one side is a bit higher than the design on the other side.
Although the legs are conjoint, the base of each pillar of legs is marked with two sets of three parallel lines, bear claws. The bottom of front pillar of legs is inscribed with the date “1980.” The bottom of the rear pillar carries the inscription “Ken. Lynch.”
This bear is a simple form, but overwhelmingly cute. The painting is minimal, so much of the visual impact is from the form. All those curved surfaces smooth the image of the bear, please the eye, and give the form a modern look.
In spite of the bear’s small size, the painting is precise and clear. The boundary of each eye is distinct from its iris, the toes and lettering on the tiny bottom of its feet also clear.
Kenneth was born on May 24, 1974 so he would have been 6 or 7 when this effigy was made. Kenneth was raised by his grandmother, Priscilla, until he was in high school. Both the form and the painting of the effigy demonstrate a high degree of skill. Thus it’s likely this small effigy was made with Priscilla’s guidance.
I sent Rachael Sahmie a photograph of the effigy and she forwarded it to Kenneth. “He was delighted and amused to see it,” she reported. (Phone conversation, 8-28-22.)