I was out walking on an errand today when I suddenly had the urge to veer off my expected route and take a detour. I’m not sure what prompted this other than some sudden curiosity, the idea that I’ve lived in this neighborhood (Belleville, NJ) for several years, and this particular detour – which took me on a side street which was a u-shaped path between a golf course and a main thoroughfare – was somewhere I had never been before. It’s the basic premise of my Arts Adventurer series: go someplace new to me, with no expectations, and see what I can find of visual interest.
This little detour of just a few blocks didn’t disappoint, especially when I walked past this house that had these two almost life-sized wood sculptures of Native American Indian figures. It’s not something one typically sees around here, and I’m not sure whether I would describe them as “wood carvings,” “Cigar Store Indians,” or simply “sculptures.” If someone out there has a better explanation of these pieces, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Speaking of “Cigar Store Indian” figures, I learned something new while writing this post: the use of the carved Native American Indian as a symbol placed in front of a tobacco shop began in England the early 1600’s, and this was because the British ships that went to America would return bringing tobacco, and the symbolism of the statues was to explain that the source of the tobacco supply at that time was from Native Americans. Again, I’m not sure if that’s what we have here, but it was a little history lesson with an explanation of those wooden figures that was new to me.