Blankets and Baskets
By the 17th to 18th centuries, native cultures in the American West and their Spanish American neighbors had established widespread trade routes for their weavings. Pueblo women in Arizona created elaborate cotton blankets for their own use and also traded them as far away as the Great Plains. Arizona-made baskets were to be found in California, along with locally made baskets used for ritual purposes or for gathering, storing, and cooking food. Blankets and baskets were traditionally woven by women for utilitarian purposes, and their decoration reflected the cultures of the various makers. Some of these objects exhibit patterns based on the natural world, such as the Apache and Pima winnowing baskets and the California cooking bowls decorated with butterfly or rattlesnake motifs. Gathering baskets from the Cascades region of Oregon and Washington present depictions of the human figure and imagery borrowed from neighboring Plains Indians. The weavers' spiritual worlds are evident in the ceremonial patterns incorporating sacred images that appear on Hopi plaques from the Southwest or on blankets and baskets from the Pacific Northwest Coast. After European contact, Indian decorative arts both flowered and changed with new economic realities and the advent of the tourist market. Navajo weavings replaced Pueblo blankets as a mainstay of Native American trade. Old photographs show Navajo blankets being worn on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota in the 1890s. By 1880, native blankets and baskets were being avidly collected, and native makers incorporated into their work motifs and forms reflecting the tastes and preferences of their new customers.This exhibition surveys the Museum's fine collection of historic baskets and blankets made in the 19th and early 20th centuries by American Indian and Spanish American peoples throughout Western North America. Techniques, patterns, and materials reflect the stories, myths, traditions, and histories of those who made them: the woven worlds of the artists.
Susan Hay, Madelyn Shaw