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~ This Gallery celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil,  of the Beaux Arts School American classic sculptor of Native images and American history.  ~ World’s Fairs, statues, monuments, coins, and more… ~ Hot-links ( lower right) lead to works by Hermon A. MacNeil.   ~ Over 200 of stories & 2,000 photos form this virtual MacNeil Gallery stretching east to west  New York to New Mexico ~ Oregon to S. Carolina.   ~ 2021 marks the 155th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil’s birth. ~~Do you WALK or DRIVE by MacNeil sculptures DAILY!   ~~ CHECK it OUT!

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Sep
01

The Moqui (Moki, Hopi) Prayer Runner by Hermon A. MacNeil

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Hermon Atkins MacNeil's "The Moqui Runner" (The Moqui Prayer for Rain -- The Returning of the Snakes) 1896, cast 1897.

The year was 1895.  Hermon MacNeil, along with two friends (painter, Charles Francis Browne, and author, Hamlin Garland), spent the summer traveling and living in the Territories of New Mexico and Arizona.  There they sought direct experience among the Indians that would give birth in them to a new, truly American art.  “The Indian caught my fancy as it had with many young sculptors,” wrote H.A. MacNeil in his “Autobiographical Sketch.” They became eye-witnesses to the life and culture of the Hopi (formerly known as Moki, and Moqui) people.

“We found Indians a plenty and perhaps because I was keenly interested in them I was in heaven and I flared to a high pitch, working from sunrise to dark,” wrote the twenty-nine year old MacNeil. Like many ethnologists of that period, the Snake Dance deeply impacted his cultural awareness and artistic curiosity.

The Snake Dance ritual involved fifty or more men and lasted for ten days.  As a part of the ceremony the priests would dance with live snakes in their months (presumably making the reptiles the bearers of the prayers of the priests).   The climax of the ceremony involved a four mile run returning the snakes (now endued with prayers) to their natural home.

The long black locks streaming in the wind follow the runners path back to nature and the ancestors.

“There was something superb in all this,” wrote Garland in his “Among the Moki.” Something natural, strong, and wholesome.” Garland described the Runners, with their black hair flowing down over their shoulders, “They ran with the chest thrown out and with light step, which only three hundred years of daily climbing to and fro on this cliff could give.  It was like seeing one of the old Greek games.” (Among the Moki).

MacNeil never forgot the indelible visions of these moments in his artist’s eye. He writes, “Every artist has at various times strong impressions that he longs to express. The sensation received by me from this dance was without doubt the deepest I had received. There was an abandon, fury, and sincerity.”

One reviewer of MacNeil’s work from this period captures their energy and abandon by saying:

MacNeil captures the energy and fury of the ceremonial "Return of the Snakes" in the grip and gaze of the runner.

“In sculpture those fresh, spirited Indians, by H. A. MacNeil, are so strong and full of vigor that they command at once one’s admiration and respect. The strongly developed and “straight-as-an-arrow style”surely marks the Indian as nature’s nobleman.  MacNeil knows just how to bring out their striking characteristics, and even on a small scale the work is grandly conceived.” (Sculptors at the American Art Exhibition.” Arts for America 4 (November 1895) p. 150.)

Snake Dance – For a short history see:http://www.brownielocks.com/snakedance.html

HISTORY NOTE: MacNeil’s experience with the Hopi follows less than five years after tragic deaths of December 1890 — namely, Wounded Knee Massacre — The killing of Chief Sitting Bull and the murder of Chief Big Foot.  For more details of this history view”

http://www.lastoftheindependents.com/wounded.htm and

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wounded_Knee_Massacre

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WHAT YOU FIND HERE.

Here is ONE place to go to see sculpture of Hermon A. MacNeil & his students. Located in cities from east to west coast, found indoors and out, public and private, these creations point us toward the history and values that root Americans.

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