Human Faced Masks by Saturnino Valenzuela From the Collection of Barney Burns and Mahina Drees

Barney Burns and Mahina Drees kept many danced examples of masks carved by Saturnino Valenzuela for their own collection, even as they bought and sold many of his undanced masks to Indian Arts Dealers and collectors. Today we will examine nine of those “keepers” that have human faces, along with one at the end that depicts the devil. This is just a sampling.

The first is one of my favorites from this collection, an old and worn human faced mask. It was collected in 1986.

Stars flank the forehead cross.

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Made For Sale Masks By Saturnino Valenzuela

This week I will focus on made for sale masks by Saturnino Valenzuela. He made masks for various markets—dancers, collectors, and tourists. Today’s masks were brought up from Sinaloa to Indian Arts Dealers in Southern Arizona by Barney Burns and Mahina Drees, as they were intended to be sold to tourists and collectors. I bought them from those dealers, one by one, because I wanted to collect the full breadth of Saturnino’s work, including traditional and more fanciful designs; you will see both. Saturnino died several years ago, and I display these in his memory.

The first two are traditional in design, although, like some you saw last week, they represent “Apaches,” or North American Plains Indians. I bought this one in July, 2000.

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Sinaloa Mayo Pascola Masks

The Mayo Indians live in two adjacent Mexican states, Sonora and Sinaloa. Those in Sonora live in towns along the Rio Mayo, while those in Sinaloa live along the Rio Fuerte. There is apparently just enough distance between these two areas to have allowed differences to develop between their traditions. However we know so little about these differences. One obvious detail is that historically the Mayo Pascolas in Sonora have only rarely used animal faced Pascola masks, while those in Sinaloa have embraced Goat faced masks since the middle of the 20th century and perhaps for much longer. Therefore,  as we turn our attention to Mayo Pascola masks from the Rio Fuerte towns we will see a mixture of Human faced and Goat faced masks. We will also see again a profusion of made for sale masks that don’t adhere to such traditions.

Much of what we do know about Sinaloa Mayo mask traditions has resulted from the activities of traders such as Barney Burns and Mahina Drees. I introduced them in my post of August 22, 2016. Here is a link to that post.

As you may recall, Barney and Mahina encouraged Indians in a number of Northern Mexican states to produce their traditional arts and crafts for a North American audience, thus providing these subsistence farmers access to cash and modern materials that requires cash to acquire. Then they sold these crafts to Indian Arts dealers in the United States. Along the way, they also collected objects that they found particularly interesting, such as danced masks. One of the Sinaloa carvers, Saturnino Valenzuela, stands out as a prolific and talented artist, so I will begin with his masks. Today we will examine four of those that I purchased from Tom Kolaz in 1998. Three of the four had been danced. These masks served as my introduction to this carver.

The first of these has a very long beard.

Otherwise this example is very representative of Saturnino’s style. Almost all of his masks have:

1. this rim design of small gouged triangles painted in alternating colors,

2. a forehead cross that has been carved in relief, and

3. additional decorative elements that are carved in relief, such as flowers, stems of flowers, and even flower pots. This mask has flowers with stems on the cheeks.

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A Few More Highland Rio Mayo Pascola Masks

Today I will present three more masks that were carved by Luciano Valenzuela. These had been collected by Barney Burns and Mahina Drees, and Mahina permitted me to photograph their collection in 2016. I show you these masks because they are carved so much like those in last weeks post, but then extensive wear and alterations by dancers or others have caused two of them to look quite different, with embellishments that the carver had in effect omitted, from a cultural perspective.

This first mask was collected in Sonora at an unknown date.

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