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Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

"Do you make money honey? Ah, I hope you darling.”
-Devi Dja to Acee Blue Eagle, 1948

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we want to highlight a lipstick kiss-covered letter from Balinese dancer and movie star, Devi Dja to Pawnee-Creek artist, Acee Blue Eagle. A prolific painter, Blue Eagle became recognized as one of the outstanding American Indian artists of the 1930s-1950s. During the 1930s and 1940s, he traveled the world, lecturing and promoting Indian art, while his work was displayed in exhibits around the country. Simultaneously, Devi Dja was receiving accolades and world recognition for her own artistry.

“Devi Dja attracts the gaze of the audience like a cobra unwinding from a basket.” Spokesman Reviewer

“Riot of beauty, Nothing has been more fun in this town in a long time. It was, at times a riot. It was also very beautiful. Whether the spectator was most interested in dancing, music, costumes, humor, or even, anthropology, he got what he came for and liked it.” Evabeth Miller, Peoria, Ill. “Star.”

“Devi Dja is a bright star. Her Art was most distinguished and persuasive.” The New York Sun

“Unusual program presented by Bali Dancers constitute art exhibit, the most elaborately mounted and excitingly animated Ballet presentation ever to come to the West from the East. No dull moments! Real Art! Well Staged! The Bali and Java Dancers are something to get exited about.” The San Francisco News

Devi Dja was born in 1914 on the Indonesian island of Java. As a young girl, Dja danced the Legong, a ceremonial Balinese dance in which young girls enact mythical Hindu stories. At twelve years of age Dja was reaching the end of her career as a dancer because traditionally, Legong temple-dancers are prepubescent. Inspired by the dance career of prominent ballerina, Anna Pavlowa, Dja began dancing and touring the world with a troupe of Indonesian dancers and musicians. On this tour, Dja entranced and captured many audiences with her dances. Don Bernardo Gomez wrote of Devi Dja’s “exquisite hands: her finger nails are from an inch and a half to two inches in length, usually painted a beautiful coral color, with strikes of gold.” As she became more popular, Dja even appeared in Hollywood-made movies, including the 1945 film, The Picture of Dorian Gray. [Photo: Marie Hansen./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images]

After marrying in 1946, Blue Eagle and Dja spent much of their married life apart while their work kept them busy traveling the world. This particular letter was written and sent by Dja to Blue Eagle in January of 1948. At this time Devi Dja was living in Hollywood pursuing her movie career.

Click here to view some of Blue Eagle's art. You can visit the Archives and view more correspondence from Dja and Blue Eagle in the Acee Blue Eagle Papers.

-Jessie Cohen, Reference Intern and Leanda Gahegan, Reference Archivist

The National Anthropological Archives

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