Changing Perceptions of Navajo Weaving
A Turning Point: Navajo Weaving in the Late Twentieth Century, an exhibition exploring the changing perceptions of Navajo weaving, is the latest curatorial work of Ann Lane Hedlund, director of the Gloria F. Ross Tapestry Program at Arizona State Museum.
Showing at the University of Nebraska State Museum at Lincoln through November 30 and then to travel to the Heard Museum in Phoenix in February 2011, the exhibition examines the iconic tradition from the perspectives of weavers, collectors, dealers, and others as it has shifted from craft to fine art.
Ganado Red rug, 1993,
by Genevieve Shirley, born 1949, size: 71" x 49", from the Santa Fe Collection
“The phrase ‘turning point’ does not reference a specific person or event, but rather the complex cultural shift that emerged in the late 20th century,” explained Hedlund. “As Navajo weavers began to self-identify as artists and extended their creative expressions beyond their tribal heritage, the textiles began to change in significant ways, from anonymously made curios, functional home furnishings, and trade goods, to signed aesthetic expressions and focal display items. They became artistic masterpieces sometimes with price tags to match.”
The once affordable handwoven pieces became museum-quality investments created by well-recognized masters, rich with beauty and cultural meaning, just like other forms of fine art.
More than 30 rugs and tapestries, ranging from the 1970s into the 1990s, reflect several styles: revival, sand painting, pictorial, miniature, and sampler. Regional variations from the American Southwest are also represented, from Ganado to Teec Nos Pos and from Tuba City to Two Grey Hills. The pieces are on loan from the renowned Santa Fe Collection, owned by Dr. and Mrs. Charles W. Rimmer of Amarillo, Texas.
Hedlund is curator of ethnology at Arizona State Museum and professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona. She is a recognized and sought-after expert on textiles. With a particular research interest in Navajo textiles, she directs the museum’s Gloria F. Ross Tapestry Program, which fosters the creative practice and cultural study of handwoven tapestries, used worldwide from ancient to modern times.
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