Native artists continue to transform traditional technologies for new uses. Former Museum director James B. Griffin acquired these remarkable “bandidos” figurines in 1971 in western Mexico. Phoebe McNutt commissioned the figurines on Griffin’s behalf from a Tarascan man named Bonifacio, who is described in the collection correspondence as primarily focused on the production and sale of archaeological fakes. These large figurines (the tallest stands 13 inches high) reveal the artist’s talent and his familiarity with traditional stylistic and design elements. The barefoot, cigar-smoking figure on the left wears earspools and a loincloth along with an ammo belt, wristwatch, and machine gun. The artist coated the grey earthenware figurines with yellow slip or powdered clay post-firing to make them appear weathered.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.