Dan Vallo to be Featured in a Special Exhibition at the Southern Plains Indian Museum

Last edited 04/04/2023
Contact Information

 Contact:  SPIM@ios.doi.gov

Dan Vallo_Spring Green 2023 photo

ANADARKO, OKLAHOMA:  The Southern Plains Indian Museum, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, announces the opening of a new exhibition, Contemporary Flintknapping, featuring Dan Vallo. The exhibition will be open from April 7 through June 9, 2023, and is free to the public.

Dan Vallo, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Acoma, is an established artist who has worked as a flintknapper, woodworker, and potter for over 35 years. He graduated from Bernalillo High School and attended the University of New Mexico College of Engineering, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dan currently resides with his wife in Bernalillo, New Mexico, where is he is a project manager in the construction industry.

Over the past fifteen years, Dan has developed his flintknapping to a level of artistic mastery. He takes great pride in creating unique artworks that also serve as functional tools. Utilizing ancient techniques and traditional materials, he has elevated flintknapping into a unique form of contemporary art. 

Dan spent much of his childhood living on the reservation in Acomita, New Mexico, observing the art made by his elders. His grandmother, Helen Vallo, was a skilled traditional potter and his great uncle Clyde Hunt, known as Chief Sunny Skies, was a well-known silversmith. The artwork made by Dan’s grandmother and great uncle continues to inspire him today. The artwork of Dan’s grandmother and great uncle continues to inspire and inform his work today.  While exploring the reservation as a child, he found many arrowheads, sparking a lifelong passion for creating his own stone tools. Dan’s father, Henry Vallo, would take him hunting every fall, and noticed his son’s early interest in flint tools and knapping. Henry then began to teach his son the traditional techniques of flintknapping.

Flintknapping is an ancient art used to create stone tool and weapons. Natural stones such as flint, chert or obsidian are shaped by hand using a harder stone, such as a river rock. Each arrowhead, spearhead, or knife blade begins as a large piece of stone, known as a core. Dan removes small flakes of material from the core by carefully hitting it with a river rock, slowly shaping the piece into its desired form. When creating knives, Dan combines his talent for woodworking to make ornate wooden handles and stands for the stone blades he knaps. Drawing on his memories of his grandmother’s pottery, Dan also makes beautiful ceramic stands for some knives.

Dan began flintknapping by making small arrowheads that replicated those he found as a child. This developed into making larger arrowheads and knives he could use in the field. Hunting with primitive weapons that he makes himself has always been important to Dan. He has continued to improve his technique with each piece, gradually developing his own unique style. Dan also uses antler or bones from animals he has harvested to make the handles and stands for his knives. It is important to him to utilize every part of the animals he harvests; this gives honor and a new life to the spirit of those animals. He has also begun to incorporate his grandmother’s pottery designs in the handles and stands for his knifes.

It is only recently that Dan began to sell his work commercially and participate in Indian art markets. He enjoys the fellowship with other artists and the encouragement they have provided regarding his art.  This exhibit marks the first solo exhibition of Dan’s work and the first time his art has been exhibited in a professional museum setting. The artwork featured in the exhibition may be purchased by contacting Dan Vallo directly at geo.dan13@gmail.com.

The Southern Plains Indian Museum is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board. For hours of operation, please call the Southern Plains Indian Museum at (405) 247-6221 or visit www.doi.gov/iacb/southern-plains-indian-museum

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