Published: December 4, 2007
The exhibition “Navajo Textiles from the Bruce Museum” opens December 8, and will run through March 24. The Bruce Museum exhibition includes approximately ten examples from the transitional to the Rug periods and explores this important time in the history of Navajo artistry, as technological advances and the growth of a commercial interest in Navajo craft replaced traditional methods of weaving.
For more than 300 years, Navajo women have created textiles that combine both traditional techniques and influences from the changing world around them. The earliest Navajo weavings took the form of utilitarian wearing blankets and other items of clothing and were usually decorated with simple bands of stripes. More complex designs †crosses, diamonds and zigzag borders †also appeared during this Classic Period (1650‱865).
In the late 1800s, Navajo culture experienced a rapid transformation as United States policy forced changes in living conditions, language, clothing and many other aspects of life. During the Transitional Period (1865‱895) weaving was increasingly aimed at outside markets and production became focused on creating rugs rather than blankets. In addition, newly available commercial dyes become popular and yielded a variety of vividly colored textiles.
Beginning in the late Nineteenth Century, Euro-American-owned trading posts on the Navajo reservation played an important role in the development of Navajo weavings. The Rug Period (1895⁰resent) has been typified by distinctive regional designs that employ specific color schemes and patterns, each associated with a different trading post. Navajo weavers have continued to be sensitive to the desires of the Western art market, and the increase in the variety of pictorial patterns aided in transitioning Navajo weaving into its current phase that includes the creation of purely decorative wall hangings.
When comparing Nineteenth Century blankets and Twentieth Century rugs, outward differences in designs and function are visible. Across the generations, Navajo weavers have embraced change, remaining flexible to new ideas and materials. The history of Navajo weaving continues; over the past century, Navajo weaving has flourished, maintaining its importance as a vital native art to the present day.
The Bruce Museum is at 1 Museum Drive. For information, www.brucemuseum.org or 203-869-0376.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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