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Text and Texture: Narrative
in Contemporary Southwest Native American Art
October 12 - December 16, 2006
This exhibition explores
complex relationships between materials and narrative elements in contemporary
art by Hopi, Navajo and Zuni artists. Judith Hamera, co-curator with Alfred
Bendixen, noted "Works displayed here cross multiple boundaries that
apply to more conventional genres of art-making. In so doing, they call
into question distinctions between 'art' and 'craft,' 'folk art,' 'outsider
art,' and 'tourist productions.' Further, these work represent intricate
negotiations between native traditions and innovation, between disruptions
of cultural norms and cultural continuity." The exhibition features
30 Hopi kachinas by various artists, Navajo baskets, memory aids and sandpaintings,
as well as dozens of Zuni fetishes. This exhibition is organized as part
of the Texas A&M University Southwest Writers & Artists Festival,
and is supported by The Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, Paul
Tipton, Twin Rocks Trading Post, and private collectors who wish to remain
Following is training material developed for docents
of the show prepared by Dr. Judith Hamera, Professor and Head, Department
of Performance Studies:
- This brief overview is intended to provide a "one
stop" resource you can use to address frequently asked questions.
Articles attached offer in-depth discussions of Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni
works, and were selected because they specifically link the social and
spiritual aspects of tribal live to the works produced.
- Show Objectives
- To explore intersections of materials and subject matter
in contemporary Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni art;
- To use contemporary Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni art to gain
insights into current tribal concerns, humor, and sociocultural life; and
- To examine limits of existing art vocabularies, specifically
notions of "folk art" versus "craft" or "fine
- Geographic Focus
- The show examines work by Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni artists
living in the southwestern United States. The majority of the artists are
living on their tribal reservations. See the attached map for details.
- Aesthetic Focus
- Works selected for this show include katsina/kachina
carvings, paintings, sandpaintings, memory aids, folk art, sandstone carvings,
pottery, rugs, and fetish carvings. All share an interesting blend of materials
and narrative elements. We are asking: How do native artists present narrative
elements (from rituals, from legend and sacred stories, from daily life)
in different ways using different materials. The intersections of materials
and subject matter in these works illuminate multiple dimensions of contemporary
Native American life.
- Why "text"?
- "Text," "textile," and "texture"
share the Latin root "texere: to weave." Stories are woven, as
are rugs. Both share the sense of multiple threads/influences coming together
to make something greater that the sums of their parts.
- How does this work relate to other kinds of "fine
- The Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni works presented here expose
the arbitrary distinctions between "art" and "craft,"
between "fine art" and "folk art." Some of the artists
and media represented here have been shown in international fine art museums
at the same time they appear in trading posts on reservations. This complex
relationship to conventional genres of art making is rooted in the history
of Native American relationships to the tourist industry and to Indian
traders who have traditionally bridged the gap between artists and collectors
of this work.
- While self-expression is certainly important in this
work, as in all art making, many Native American artists do not have the
luxury of producing for this reason alone. From the outset, tribal artists
have produced art as a way of making a living. Some artists, like the late
Charlie Willeto, the best known Navajo folk artist, made pieces to trade
- The Fred Harvey Company was instrumental in packaging
southwestern Native American art for sale to tourists traveling by rail
to the Grand Canyon and other sites in the southwest in the late 19th century.
Individual traders like C.G. Wallace recognized the commercial potential
in "Indian crafts;" Wallace, for example, encouraged Zunis to
adapt stone fetish carving, a sacred practice, to commercial purposes.
The tourist industry, and individual traders, influence the production
and dissemination of this work to the present day.
- Cultural Sensitivity and "Authenticity"
- There is a reservation joke that goes: "How many
people in a typical Indian family?" The answer is "Five: mother,
father, two kids and an anthropologist." The humor in the joke calls
our attention to the fact that Native Americans have been configured as
"exotic," and as "objects of study" since the early
19th century. This scrutiny by outsiders continues into the present. Examples
include tourists feeling complete freedom to intrude upon sacred ceremonies
to take pictures, ask inappropriate questions about sacred matters of tribal
members, and even intrude upon families in their homes. As trader Jonathan
S. Day notes in his book Traditional Hopi Kachinas: A New Generation
- Picture a vanload of tourists pulling up to your house
on the Fourth of July and trampling in your bushes, looking in your windows,
and taking pictures of your family. You'd call the police, right? (p. 7)
- Native American artists are understandably concerned
about elements of their culture being treated with the respect they deserve.
In many cases, this means they abide by tribal taboos against representing
certain figures and motifs in work meant for outsiders.
- Does this mean the work shown here is not "authentic"?
No. It means "authenticity" is complicated in Southwest Native
American art. It means that the artists represented here must balance their
deep generosity in sharing aspects of their culture with tribal taboos,
as well as balancing their own unique points of view with demands of the
art market. The resulting work represents extremely complex negotiations
of relationships between artists, collectors, cultural treasures for insiders,
and the desires and curiosities of outsiders.
- Tribal Information
- We strongly encourage you to visit the tribal websites
below. The Hopi, Navajo and Zuni nations have represented themselves here.
Note the attention given to educating outsiders on how to visit, view ceremonies,
- About the Attached
- The attached materials were selected because they offer
historical and spiritual overviews of Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni arts that
are included in this show.
- Hopi Katsinas ("kachinas") are discussed in
the attached excerpts from Zena Perlstone's exhibit catalog Katsina:
Commodified and Appropriated Images of Hopi Supernaturals. Los Angeles:
UCLA Fowler Museum (2001): pp. 48-55 and 130-1. These last two pages are
a profile of Ramson Lomatewama, a Hopi carver and poet who will be presenting
a carving demonstration and poetry reading as part of "Text and Texture."
- The origins of Navajo sandpainting are discussed in Mark
Bahti and Eugene Baatsoslanii Joe's A Guide to Navajo Sandpainting.
Tucson: Rio Nuevo Publishers (2000): 6-11.
- Joe Douthitt presents an overview of Zuni fetish carvings,
written with the permission of the Indian Arts and Crafts Association,
is presented in "Indian Fetishes" (www.collectorsguide.com/fa/fa025.shtml).
- These three sources are representative of the ways individual
collectors and audiences generally encounter this work: in the museum (Pearlstone),
in the popular monograph (Bahti), and on the web for sale ("Indian
(above: Bruce Hathale. Memory Aid. "Great Star
Evil Chaser." Photo by Judith Hamera)
(above: Bruce Hathale. Untitled Memory Aid. Photo by Judith
(above: Not attributed (Hathale family). Water ox and
water horse. Painting on muslin. Photo by Judith Hamera)
(above: Harrison Juan. Wood carving. Bill Clinton
Photo by Judith Hamera)
(above: Harrison Juan. Wood carving. Close up of Bill Clinton. Photo
by Judith Hamera)
(above: Delphine Warren. Sandstone carving. "God
bless the USA." Photo by Judith Hamera)
(above: Mamie Deschillie, Cardboard Chickens. "Fabric,
Wood, and Clay: The Diverse Worlds of Navajo Art." Heard Museum
North. Scottsdale, AZ. January 26 - June 23, 2002. Photo by Judith Hamera)
Links to sources of information outside of our web site
are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use
due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and
all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or
out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations.
Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility
for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts
any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating
web pages see TFAO's General Resources
section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.
1. not in exhibition
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