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Navajo Textile Project

The idea for the project was inspired by Jamie Ross, a longtime collector of Navajo Blankets. The collection itself is housed in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and includes over 700 blankets that vary in design and age. This is an important collection that needs to be viewed not only for its beauty but for the window into the history of Navajo weaving that has occurred in the past 100 years.

Current motivations to collect Navajo weaving continue to reflect nineteenth-and early twentieth-century trends, even as new perspectives are gained. Collectors’ common interest in regional rug styles reflects a tendency to categorize and then collect one of every type, just as the emerging scientists of the nineteenth century did. Throughout the twentieth century, modernization around the Navajo Nation has produced in both makers and collectors an urge to preserve or even revive earlier forms. styles. and qualities before they are lost to later generations. In addition, the long-recognized tension between craft and art plays itself out repeatedly as outsiders recognize the fresh visual appeal and intricate technology of Navajo weaving. And as art historians emphasize aesthetic development and anthropologists focus on cultural dynamics, public perceptions swing between the visual images and the artists’ personal identities. The relatively new element added to this mix of collector motives is the investment quality of weaving. Along with painting, sculpture, and prints, textiles have become profitable commodities in today’s art world.

The intention of the project was to photograph each blankets but later developed into the idea of creating a book as well as exhibition dedicated to Navajo weavers, history, and the stories that are woven within.