Woven Through Time: Kennedy Museum Displays Navajo Collection

By
Sara Lorenz

Dateline
Updated Fri, Sep 14, 2012 11:41 am
Photo Credit: 
Kennedy Museum of Art Collection
Germantown Outline Rug, unknown weaver, c. 1930-1940

Ohio University's Kennedy Museum of Art is currently exhibiting a sampling of Navajo weavings from its collection of over 700 pieces.

The collection was given to the museum by Edwin Kennedy in the early 1990s and made part of the permanent collection in 1996.

New pieces are still being collected as the museum works and consults with the Navajo Nation and other Native American organizations. The current collection extends from 1865 to 2004 through a variety of artistic periods.

Located on the second floor are a series of samplings made from the wool of Germantown, Penn. Even today, similar pieces are being sold as tourist items in some areas.

Visitors to the exhibit may be surprised to see a weaving that features swastika-like images. The swastika, seen frequently in many cultures, at one time had a more positive meaning.

In the Navajo culture, the swastika is actually called a "whirling log," based on stories of canoes becoming trapped in whirlpools. They represent a part of the Navajo oral history.

Larger weavings completed in the Teec Nos Pos, a regional style meaning "circle of cottonwoods," are on display in the museum's main hall. These weavings are from the northeastern part of Arizona.

Many of the weavings were made shortly after the railroad reached the Southwest in the 1880s. Eventually, as more European interests came to the west, they began to influence the weaving style. This can be seen in the intricate borders of several of the pieces.

The borders are especially interesting to the history of the Navajo weaving tradition, since originally, most weavers did not have any sort of borders. Those who did used three-sided "spirit lines."

The open-ended nature of the weavings, according to Sally Delgado, Kennedy Museum curator of Education, indicates that the artist is not weaving anything perfectly.

"They're leaving room for improvement," she said.

The borders were also used by traders to identify a weaver, since there were no real records of who created what during that time. The styles of the borders were often tied to specific families.

For more information on these exhibits and upcoming events, visit www.ohio.edu/museum.

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