Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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A rug by an unknown weaver. Germantown Outline Rug c. 1930-40.

Photo courtesy of: Collection Kennedy Museum of Art


This rug is by an unknown weaver. Germantown Sampler on a Loom, c. 1895

Photo courtesy of: Collection Kennedy Museum of Art


This weaving incorporates a technically difficult weaving element: interlocking circles in red that are used as a border device creating a chain-link effect. It exemplifies a transitional piece between the Early and Classic periods.

Photo courtesy of: Collection Kennedy Museum of Art

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Navajo exhibits are more than meets the eye

With more than 700 pieces, the Navajo Collection is Kennedy Museum of Art’s largest exhibit that circulates through with pieces ranging from the 1800s to the late 20th century.

"Teec Nos Pos: Navajo Weavings" is one of the current exhibits that will be showing until Sept. 28 along with recently opened "Navajo Germantown Samplers," which will run until March 10, 2013.

The Navajo are the largest federally recognized tribe with their reservation located across the Four Corners consisting of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. These weavings were seen as a culturally rich tradition passed down mainly from mother to daughter and depending on the time, used for rugs, blankets, wall decorations, serapes, trading items and some purely to showcase talent.

Behind these weavings lie many legends, traditions and symbolism that viewers would never have guessed solely by examining the pieces.

  • Looking at the intricate geometric patterns it is difficult to imagine that all the weavings were done without a blueprint. The designs are all imagined solely by the artists. To start the Navajo weaver will mark the center of the weaving, but from that the design comes strictly from memory. Ifnewers look closely at the details of several weavings they will pick up on un-symmetrical mishaps due to the design-free process.

  • What do historical weavings and Starbucks have in common? Cochineal. During the 19th century the Navajo began using Cochineal, a bug found in South America and Mexico, to crush and make a crimson-colored dye for their yarn. This past spring Starbucks began using the bug in an effort to find more "natural" alternatives to synthetic dyes in their strawberry Frappuccinos. However, the business was in hot water when vegans were later informed that the drink contained the bug.

  • Legends passed down through generations have told the story of “Spider Woman,” the original Navajo weaver. Between 1300 and 1500 AD, the Navajo migrated from Canada and settled in the Southwest. It is told that a holy person named Spider Woman taught the tribe how to weave and Spider Man instructed how to build looms, the support tools used when making the weavings. Today the legend still lives on in that to receive the gift of weaving youth need to find a spider web with morning dew to place in their right hand without destroying and their spirit will receive the talent.

  • The swastika symbol appears in many pieces, but symbolizes a different meaning than what modern audiences think. In Navajo culture, the swastika is known as the "Whirling Log." This symbol was first seen in sand paintings in relation to Navajo religious ceremonies, and along with many Navajo symbols has a lengthy legend behind the symbol.

Since the 1970s the Navajo have shied away from solely geometric patterns in their small pictorial weavings and have included modern symbolism of the Anglo culture; farm animals, trucks, letters of the alphabet, people and landscapes can all be found incorporated into the weavings representing the influence of today’s culture on the Navajo reservation.

For more information about Kennedy Museum of Art visit www.ohio.edu/museum/.