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Norman S. Chamberlain
Corn Dance, Taos Pueblo
1934
oil
50 1/4 x 40 1/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor



Chamberlain was commissioned by the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) to paint Indian subjects in the early 1930s. Corn Dance, Taos Pueblo, with its pattern of light and dark colors, abstracted figures, and central swirl with symbolic corn motif, suggests the staccato movement of a ritual harvest dance. On the left, women offer ears of corn, while men with painted bodies draped in loincloths dance to the beat of dried-gourd noisemakers. The men, representing spirits of the dead, are members of the Koshare Society. The dark, mysterious hooded figure staring out from the foreground may be the “war captain” who directs the dancing.