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Fred Stevens in Ceremony
We were privileged to be invited to several ceremonies where Fred Stevens was the "Singer" or medicine man in charge. At one such ceremony, we were allowed to take some photographs of the sandpaintings as they were being made. The shots were taken with a small Kodak camera of a type called "110". This was a very early precursor to the disposable 35 mm cameras sold today. These were quite inexpensive fixed focus cameras, and this shows clearly in the quality of the photos that were taken, but some of the pictures turned out good enough to be worthwhile.
In this series of photos, you can clearly see that the base sand for the painting is brought into the hogan just as the colored sands are. It is a clean drift sand and in this instance, the Singer has spread the sand, packing and smoothing it in sections as he worked. This allowed him to work on a painting that covered a large area without straining to reach the inner areas.
In this photo, the Black Hunchback (first figure made) is complete and the White Shell Woman (second figure made) has just been started.
This shot shows some of the details being added to the headdress of the White Shell Woman (top figure) and the top part of the Black Hunchback (lower figure).
This photo is a close up of some of the detail work done on the Black Hunchback (left figure) and White Shell Woman (right figure). Each line and detail is done by hand, exhibiting a painstaking and remarkable control over the loose sand being used to create the painting. You will also note that the background sand has a slightly scalloped appearance along the edge where it was laid and then smoothed.
In this shot, the Singer is making the squirrel skin bag that is carried by Soft Talker (the upper figure, fourth one made). Just below Soft Talker is the Fringed Mouth (third figure made). Near the Singer's left foot is the baton he used to smooth the background sand with. This implement appeared to be made of juniper wood and was basically identical to the batons used by a weaver on the loom while weaving rugs.
This shot shows the completed sandpainting. The open side is facing toward the east, where the doorway of the hogan was located. In the photo, the four figures shown (nearly head downwards) are from left to right, Soft Talker (Talking God), Night Fringed Mouth (Half Yellow Man), White Shell Woman and Black Hunchback. The entire grouping is surrounded by a Rainbow Goddess guardian. The painting was constructed in the order of Hunchback, White Shell Woman, Fringed Mouth, Soft Talker, and then Rainbow Guardian. A row of prayer sticks or "kethawan" surround the painting.