House, Conrad – Modern Fetish Bowl and Prayer Sticks (1988)
This is an exceptional piece by multi-media artist Conrad House (1956-2001). Much like me, you might be familiar with the name “Conrad House”, but not necessarily award of his art. He was Dine/Oneida and his work was significant in redefining Indian art, utilizing many art mediums to preserve symbols and images of his culture and world cultures. His works are in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Portland Art Museum, Wheelwright Museum, Heard Museum, Navajo Nation Museum and numerous museums and galleries around the world. In 2002, the Heard Museum Guild created the “Conrad House Award for the Most Innovative Artist. Winners of the Conrad House Award include Marilou Schultz, Travis Emerson, D. Y. Begay, Polly Rose Folwell, Barbara Teller Ornelas, Marvin Oliver, Pat Pruitt, Jason Garcia, Warren Coriz, Melissa S. Cody, Orlando Dugi, Ryan Lee Smith, Susan Folwell, Berdine Begay, Shan Goshorn, ShoSho Esquiro, and Marlowe Katoney. In 2006, the University of New Mexico’s Art Museum held a retrospective of his art entitled, “A Life in Balance: The Art of Conrad House”.
This set is what Conrad referred to as a “Sacred Toy”. It is a contemporary version of the historic Zuni Fetish bowl and reflects his “obsession with the duality of daily life”. Here the jar is made from clay the surface is a metallic glaze, which almost looks like glass. The fetishes around the outsides are all badgers, except for the one light blue one, which is a pick up truck. The side of the jar has a hole for “feeding the fetishes”. Inside the jar is a clay “x” instead of the more traditional cornmeal, which reflects Conrad’s desire to create an “innovative sacred vessel for the future”. The two prayer sticks are also glazed and each has a bear fetish attached to the stick. There are tabs on each of the two prayer sticks, which are painted like pottery shards, which are signed and dated, as part of the set. There is certainly the mixture of the traditional and the modern in this work. The set is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks, restoration or repair. It was purchased directly from the artist and the more detailed information about the piece itself comes from his sister.