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Charlie Willeto
Female Navajo Figure
about 1962–64
painted wood
66 1/2 x 16 1/4 x 14 1/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson

Willeto was a Navajo sheepherder who started carving just a few years before his death. These figures, with their hair bound Navajo style, stood outside the Mauzy Trading Post where Willeto exchanged work for groceries. Originally brightly painted, their color has been dulled by exposure to the elements. Most of the four hundred carvings Willeto created before his death are small, reminiscent of the figurines used in the Navajo curing rite, `a-wéésjíín `análnééh. These large sculptures differ from the small, stylized carvings only in scale, and their painted markings may be decorative reminders of the jeweled inlay and painted bands found on the healing figures.