beneath the cottonwoods
2008, oil, 50"h x 34"w
Maternal love is one of the most powerful and endearing bonds in all of human emotion and shared in every family of man, including the fiercely protective women of the American Indian tribes. Following the birth of a child, a Blackfoot mother would use a traditional cradleboard to carry and protect the infant during its first crucial year. This was the custom of all Plains Indian people and varied only in the shape or design of the cradle. As protective talismans and good luck charms, small beaded pouches were crafted into stylized little animals believed to possess long life. A pouch in the form of a snake was for a boy child and a lizard form was for girls. These attractive pouches, known as umbilical cord amulets, were kept attached to the cradleboard.
This painting emerged from a model session with a young Blackfeet woman. Zhuo originally planned to explore the theme of "berry gathering" however, upon arriving at the location on the Blackfeet Reservation just east of Glacier Park, he was surprised to discover that the young lady had a nine-month-old boy and had brought him along. Fortuitously, a traditional cradleboard was packed with all the gear, clothing, tools and horses that were needed to re-create a berry camp. When the young mother saw the cradleboard, she suggested that she use it. Some lovely imagery came out of that day spent with mother and child beneath the aspen and cottonwood groves on the Mad Wolf Ranch.