Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

12.16.2012

Woven Splendor

[Late 19th–early 20th century blanket by Navajo people, Native American; churro wool, aniline, and vegetal dye; 75 x 50 inches; Given to the Birmingham Museum of Art by the estate of Coleman Cooper.]

Wonderfully graphic and durable, too, this brilliant red handwoven "wearing blanket" (a wrap worn by both men and women) is one of seventeen Navajo rugs and five chief's blankets recently culled from the permanent collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art for its exhibition, Woven Splendor. The show remains on view through December 30, so there's still time to see this special installation of stunning textiles.

[Image via Meredith College's Navajo research site.]

Ranging from the Victorian era through to the mid-20th century, these pieces really represent the endurance of weaving in Navajo culture. Historically women did the weaving from home, beginning and completing projects as they juggled all of their other household responsibilities. And while they wove many types of clothes, it was the commercial blanket (and later rug) trade that provided a way for mothers to help support their families. Visitors to the Birmingham exhibition will see the bold, spare stripes associated with earlier chief blankets as well as the diamonds and other geometric patterns that have essentially remained popular with Anglo-American collectors since East Coast Victorians began snapping them up.

Click here for a list of Navajo textile books.

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