Southwest aficionados who can't get enough of Santa Fe cuisine, furniture and jewelry should note the new Western icon that is now roaming the range of designer living rooms: the bleached steer skull.
No longer are the brittle, sun-scorched artifacts sighted only atop fence posts on cattle ranches or sprawling in Western desert sands.
They have invaded a more urban habitat: Southwest restaurants, designer showrooms, and especially, fashion-conscious homes.
"People like them. It's definitely a big deal," said Eric Dortch, who sells up to 20 steer skulls a week at Arte de Mexico, a sprawling North Hollywood emporium. (Prices range from $125 to $185.)
Originally, Plains Indians used buffalo skulls in ceremonies that signified rebirth, healing and unity with nature. Then Western artists such as Frederick Remington and Georgia O'Keefe made the steer skull a leitmotif in their work.