Cleo Teissedre Pueblo Jester With Watermelon Native American Clown Storyteller
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Artist Cleo Teissedre began making her original Native American and Southwest designs in 1979 in her garage in Tucson, Arizona. Teissedre Designs, Inc. became widely known for their storytellers, tiles and framed art. The business was sold in 1996 to Paula and Kris Wilder. This colorful Pueblo storyteller figure was made in 1993, before the original company was sold. Signed on the bottom in black script are "Teissedre" and "K.M. 93" (the initials of the artist who hand painted the figure). The figure also has an impressed mark along the lower edge: "TDI © 93." Both are shown in our photos.
Storyteller figures were first made in 1964, by a member of the Cochiti people of New Mexico. They represent Native American parents and grandparents telling stories to children of the tribe to preserve their history and traditions. This storyteller is also a clown, a jester in the Kachina religion, which is practiced by the Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest. To conceal the clown's real identity when he is performing the rituals, the tribal member wears body paint and head dresses rather than costumes and masks. One of the best known is the Hano Clown (which has many other names, depending on the Pueblo), with black and white horizontal stripes painted on his face and body and his hair parted and bound into two bunches that are topped with corn husks.
The clowns use humor to illustrate unacceptable behaviors, behaviors that harm the individual person and the Pueblo people as a group as well. They often carry watermelons, a slice or a whole, which they use to illustrate gluttony as they bite fiercely into the fruit, sometimes spitting the seeds at onlookers to demonstrate mischief.
This clown storyteller is holding a slice of watermelon and is seated on a drum. A child, also dressed as a clown, is nestled on his lap and is clutching the drumstick. The figure weighs about 5 ounces, stands 4 inches tall and measures about 2 inches across the chest. It's in excellent condition, with no chips or cracks and the paint bright and fresh. There are small bits of paper and adhesive on the bottom, remnants no doubt of the original price sticker. Cleo Tesseidre storytellers are unique in design, are beautifully hand painted and show an impressive amount of detail. Storytellers in general have become popular and none more so than Tesseidre's.