The Anatomy of the Owens Valley Doll

by bookindian

The Anatomy of an Owens Valley Doll

The cottonwood or willow Owens Valley Doll is a 3D figure representative of the type of clothing worn during the pre and post-Euro-American contact cultural phases of the Owens Valley Paiute.

The development of the Owens Valley Doll (“OVD”) was similar to the “sampling” technique used in music; a phrase from a piece of music is clipped from the original composition and through the use of digital processing is modified and used to create another composition based on the “sample”. The same process was used to develop the OVD figure.

The original” concept was to create a “traditional” figure or icon that is representative of the ethno-centric material culture of the Owens Valley Paiute of eastern California.

Cultural practices (song, mythology) and utilitarian items (basketry, clothing, etc.), were examined and several significant items selected or “sampled” for use in the development or creation of the “new” tradition. What followed was crafting the “arrangement”, that is deciding how to arrange the “samples”; what materials would be used to produce the 3D figure and what would be the form of the finished piece.

Initially it was thought that the figure would be carved from windblown cottonwood limbs, however, a species of willow grows along the streams was selected for the texture of the bark, and the wood of the willow was better suited to the production of a hand-crafted item.

“In his book The Savage Mind’ (1962, English translation 1966), French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss used the word bricolage to describe any spontaneous action, further extending this to include the characteristic patterns of mythological thought. The reasoning here being that, since mythological thought is all generated by human imagination, it is based on personal experience, and so the images and entities generated through ‘mythological thought’ rise from pre-existing things in the imaginer’s mind.” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The following is a list of utilitarian items selected from the material culture to be used in creating the OVD figure.

• The willow basketry “hat”
• Unbraided hair
• Rabbit skin “blanket” (pre-contact cultural phase); the natural texture of the willow bark is used to simulate the mottled brown hair color of the jack rabbit.
• Wool blanket – Acrylic paint or used fabric.

The simple cylindrical shape of the Japanese kokeshi and the stylistically posed Hopi katsin-tithu were used as models for the final configuration of the OVD. The OVD is a more representational figure than the traditional Japanese kokeshi, having more carved detail, i.e. the hat, hair, face and clothing; it is less detailed than the Hopi katsin-tithu, lacking individual arms and legs.



The above image shows the OVD with various types of adornment; the figures have not been stained or painted or have been modified since having been photographed.

More developments later.