Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Artist Purdy Corcoran 'Unmasks' Historical Truth to Top Anthropologists

You may be most familiar with Dolores Purdy Corcoran for her ledger art. As a matter of fact, she was the featured artist (the “poster child") for last weekend’s 2010 Eiteljorg Museum Indian Market and Festival in Indianapolis. While her ledger is very popular and highly sought by contemporary Native American art collectors, so are the masks that she creates from gourds. They are contemporary representations of masks found in burial mounds in the American Southeast, in particular Louisiana, East Texas and the Southern Plains. The Caddo were traders and obtained turquoise from the American Southwest as well as feathers from South America. Both of these elements appear in her work.

Purdy Corcoran, of Caddo and Winnebago descent, is extremely knowledgeable on the subject of the Mound Builder masks, but it came as a huge surprise and honor that she was recently asked to make a trip to Washington, D.C. to speak on the subject of Mound Builder masks, specifically about the so called “Crying Eye” motif found on many of them. For years, it has been believed that these were funerary masks with anguish as a focus, but Purdy Corcoran had the opportunity to set National Museum of the American Indian visitors and a prestigious group of anthropologists straight on the subject. It is now known that these masks actually depicted the “Falcon Eye” motif, which the artist discovered by studying ancient relief art and conferring with tribal elders. The Falcon Eye motif was more highly associated with tribal warriors and less with funerals.

At this year’s Native Treasures Indian Arts Festival in Sante Fe, New Mexico, I had the opportunity to talk to Dolores Purdy Corcoran about her masks and what it was like to dispel an anthropological myth in front of these experts. Watch the video HERE.

For more information on the artist visit

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