She stands proud and straight, her long black pigtails hanging to her waist, her voluminous crimson sleeves and tall staff cutting a commanding figure.
She is a prominent Kiowa woman or, at least, a diminutive representation of one, and part of a colorful new exhibition called “More Than Child’s Play: American Indian Dolls” opening this weekend at Heard Museum North Scottsdale. The museum will host a Fry Bread Sundae Social 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday to mark the occasion. The first 50 children to visit will receive for free a handpainted Hopi cradle doll and an ice cream sundae made with traditional Native American fry bread. For later visitors, the sundaes will be available in the museum’s cafe for $6.50.
“More Than Child’s Play” showcases about 80 dolls, some meticulously crafted by contemporary Native artists to serve as historically accurate fine art works for serious collectors, others crudely fashioned and timeworn, as if long-ago children dropped and dragged them across vast plains or high plateaus.
“They are an echo of life in miniature,” says Janet Cantley, the show’s curator. “Their clothing is significant. The detail in the beading and the face painting and even the hairstyles are significant. It’s all of life in miniature. Important ceremonies and cultural values are all represented.”
The dolls come from native communities across North America, among them the Akimel O’Otham, Apache, Cocopah, Tohono O’odham, Yaqui and Zuni in the American Southwest; the Seminole in the Southeast; and the Aleut, Inupiat and Tlingit in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
Depending on their origin, some are made from corn husks, palmetto fiber, tree bark, reindeer horn, walrus tusk and animal hair. There are also dolls made to sell to tourists passing through reservation land and to teach tribal customs and values to children.
“They have an extraordinary level of detail and range of material, coming from northern Mexico all the way up to the top of the world in the Arctic,” says Cantley, noting an 1870 Cheyenne doll made partly from bison fur and braided porcupine quills.
The exhibition is open daily through the end of the year.
If you go
What: “More Than Child’s Play: American Indian Dolls” showcases a range of dolls, made from corn husks, reindeer horn, animal fur and tree bark, from across North America.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, through Jan. 2, 2011.
Where: Heard Museum North Scottsdale, 32633 N. Scottsdale Road
Cost: $5 adults, $2 students, free for kids 6 and younger
Information: (480) 488-9817 or www.heard.org
Fry Bread Sundae Social
What: The first 50 kids to visit “More Than Child’s Play: American Indian Dolls” 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday get a Hopi cradle doll and an ice cream sundae made with Indian fry bread. After that, sundaes are $6.50 in the museum’s cafe. The Sundae Social is free with paid museum admission.