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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 10, 2004 - Issue 104


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Saddle blanket exhibit rides into Window Rock

by The Farmington (New Mexico) Daily Times

SANTA FE — Contributing author Joyce Begay-Foss will sign copies of “Navajo Saddle Blankets,” followed by a reception, at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Ariz., Jan 17 at 2:30 pm. The exhibit runs from Jan. 17 to May 1, according to a news release.

Navajo saddle blankets have been largely overlooked in favor of the celebrated Navajo rugs. Saddle blankets are one weaving form that has been produced continuously both for Navajo use and trade, yet they have never before been the subject of an in-depth study or museum exhibition. The voices of Navajo weavers, traders, rodeo riders, and cowboys will help this exhibition tell the story of these fabulous works of utilitarian art.

The story begins with the Spanish introduction of horses and saddles to the Southwest over 300 years ago. It is a story that continues to be written today. The exhibition will also include 37 superb saddle blankets from the collection of the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, cinches, saddles, weaving tools, and vintage photographs showing Navajo weavers, cowboys on horseback, and dude ranches and trading posts interiors.

The exhibition will trace three themes through the development of saddle blankets, from the beginning to present-day production: the evolution and diversity of materials and designs; the technical aspects of weaving; and the social and economic importance of saddle blankets, including their use by other tribes, issues of status, wealth, and horsemanship, and the roles of trading posts, wholesalers, and markets that extended as far as Tennessee, Kentucky, and California.

Organized by guest curator Lane Coulter for the Museum of Indian Art & Culture and TREX, the exhibition will appeal to all those with an interest in Native American culture, weaving, horses, and the history of the American Southwest. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum of New Mexico Press is publishing a stunningly illustrated book with essays by an interdisciplinary group of scholars.

In the wealth of books on Navajo textiles, there has never before been a study of these utilitarian saddle blankets, where Navajo weavers excel in double weaves, the two-faced textiles, the twills, and the tufted angoras. These interdisciplinary essays explore the designing and artistry of Navajo saddle blankets, the culture of the American West that spurred this usable art form, the utilitarian nature of this woven craft, and the enduring demand for these textiles by cowboys and collectors alike.

Cost of “Navajo Saddle Blankets” is $50 for clothbound and $29.95 for paperbound.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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