Organized by the San Diego Museum of Man
The second in a series of exhibitions of Native American art from the San Diego Museum of Man, Southwest Weaving: A Continuum brings together works from the distinct yet interrelated weaving traditions of Southwestern Pueblo communities, Navajo groups, and New Mexican Hispanic villages. This watershed exhibition traces more than 140 years of dazzling creativity, demonstrating once again the extraordinary breadth and depth of the museum’s collection of Native American textiles.
Due in large part to their rarity, some of the most striking artifacts in the exhibition come from the selection of Pueblo textiles. Most of the antique Pueblo weavings that survive were intended only for ritual use, and seldom appear in public collections. By contrast, the exquisite contemporary works made by male weavers at the Hopi and San Felipe villages in New Mexico were created mainly for sale to other Native Americans, and thus survive in greater quantity.
Women were the principal weavers in Navajo culture, a tradition of production that dates back 300 years. Even today, spider webs are rubbed onto the fingertips of young girls to ensure that they will grow up to become good weavers, a practice derived from ancient histories that trace the inception of weaving to the Spider Grandmother who first taught the art to Navajo women. The examples of Navajo textiles in the exhibition are drawn from the Classic period (c. 1650–1865), the Transitional period (c. 1865–1895), and the Rug Era (c. 1895–present). A wide variety of blankets, parade saddle covers, rugs, pictorials, and curious novelty weavings attests to the rich heritage of Navajo textile practice.
The hybrid culture of the Hispanic villages of New Mexico, whose inhabitants were a mix of Spanish peasant settlers and native Pueblos, resulted in a distinctive weaving tradition that forms the third part of Southwest Weaving. Represented in this section is a selection of Rio Grande blankets, with their splendid rhythmic compositions in black, blue, and white thought to have been woven by Navajo captives within the already mixed confines of the Hispanic village. The history of the Rio Grande blankets, like much of the weaving in this exhibition, reveals the complex relationships between Native Americans, Spanish and mestizo settlers, and the encroaching eastern American culture.
NUMBER OF WORKS: 79
TOUR DATES: May 1996 - August 1999
SUPPORT MATERIALS: Publication, San Diego Museum of Man, 1996