Steve Powers is the country's leading specialist in Native American (American Indian) treen sculpture by the Woodlands People and early American treen or woodenware.
Treen is an old English word meaning "from the tree." Treen refers to small utilitarian objects of wood such as: carved wooden spoons, bowls, snuffboxes, turned trenchers (plates), mortars, etc.
Burl treen refers to treen made from the burl, which is a knotty outgrowth of a tree. Before North America was settled by Europeans, Native Americans had a centuries old practice of using these burls for their bowls and ladles and were master wood workers.
The title of this collection comes from the lyric in, The Byrds’ song, “Eight Miles High.” This ripe phrase evokes a range of fantastic imagery; uninhibited children, tiny heads, unencumbered puppets and marvelous dismemberment to name a few things that popped into my head.
Rather than discovering hidden faces or seeing them in inanimate objects (pareidolia), we focused on indelible visages—stark, psychological and philosophical—existential and mythological, some animal, some mysterious and some absurd.
Important Mesquakie Dog Effigy Ladle
Size: 9 1/2" (oal) x 5 7/8" (w)
Evan M. Maurer, Director Emeritus, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts writes of this ladle, “With careful renditions of anatomical details like the open mouth, the bright staring eyes, and the ears that stand up at attention, this canine is clearly a portrait of the owner’s favorite companion who participated in the hunt and protected the family.”
The carving is small but powerful. The depiction is quite interesting in that the Christ figure in not nailed to the cross, but rather tied with the arms positioned backwards following the shape of the cross bar—his hands tied behind to the back.
Eastern Great Lakes Woodlands (Iroquois) Ash Burl Bowl
Circa: 1700 (or earlier)
Size: 13 1/2" (l) x 12 1/8" (w) x 6 1/4" (h)
This Woodlands bowl has had its’ battle with the elements over time—however, it remains an evocative object. The large, sweeping, demilune cutout handle is diagnostic of early bowls and represents an eye of a manitou.