Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

Water Creatures
  • Herbert Ben Sr.
    born 1950/1951
    active: United States
  • Water Creatures, late 1800s–1998
  • Where object was made: Shiprock, New Mexico, United States
  • pressboard, sand, pigment
  • Object Height/Width: in frame 70 x 70.5 cm
    Object Height/Width: in frame 27 1/2 x 27 3/4 in
  • Gift from the Security Benefit Group of Companies
  • Not on display
  • 2007.6194

The square piece of pressboard has sand adhered to the front. It has a light brown field and a nearly complete circle in red and blue-green that is open at the top. There are three black, white and orange feathers at each end and five feathers in the same colors near the bottom of the circle in the corners of the square field. There is a white "X" in the center with a black circle and small white "X" at the center. A plant grows from each arm; there are: three orange stems with orange leaves and black detail with three white leaves at the top, a thick blue stalk with three bent leaves on each side and four oblong yellow elements (possibly corn) with five grass-like yellow elements at the top, three yellow stems with small green leaves and a large red "U" shaped flower at the top of each with white detail, and a thick black zigzag outlined in white with a spiral at the end and two small black leaves at each bend and red, green and yellow dots in the black zigzag (possibly squash).

There is a katsina figure in the space between each arm of the "X." The figure at the top center and the bottom center appears to be the same. Each has a rectangular blue-green head with black and white feathers at the top and white arms and legs with red hands and feet. The body is oval with short curving black lines on the outside. The central portion of the body is a vertical row with two and a partial yellow hexagon with a smaller black hexagon inside. They are outlined with red lines and black dots and blue-green triangles fill the space outside the hexagons. There are orange and red scalloped lines and short, straight white lines on either side of the body.

The figures to the left and right have the same blue-green heads with feathers, white limbs with red hands and feet, and oval bodies. The design inside the body is similar to each other, but not identical. The proper right figure has a wide black diagonal line with white dots and wavy yellow lines. It has brown, orange and black with yellow curved lines over the top to one side of the black line and red, black, and blue-green to the other side of the black line, with light blue curved lines over the top. The opposite figure has a wide diagonal black line with large white dots and red and yellow wavy lines. It has light blue, brown and grey with dark blue curving lines over the top to one side of the black line and yellow, red and light blue with black curving lines over the top on the other side.

It is currently in a brown wooden frame with a white line on the front in the most prominent point of the frame. It has a light brown linen-like mat.