“A Turning Point: Navajo Weaving in the Late Twentieth Century” will be on view from October 1 through November 30, 2010, in the Cooper Gallery at the University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall) in Lincoln, Nebraska, in conjunction with the Textile Society of America Symposium, October 6-9, 2010. The exhibition will travel to the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, from February 6 through March 2011.

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Curated by anthropologist Ann Lane Hedlund, it features thirty Navajo rugs and tapestries from the renowned Santa Fe Collection (see Hedlund 2004). Dating from the 1970s into the 1990s, these textiles represent many styles handwoven by some of the most accomplished Navajo weavers. Guided by interpretive panels, visitors will be challenged to find elements that represent both traditional continuity and powerful changes in each handwoven artwork.

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The “turning point” in the title refers to a broad cultural shift, not to any specific event. In the late twentieth century, Navajo weavers began to self-identify as artists and explore new aesthetic expressions. Urban galleries started to display Navajo weaving as fine art. Collectors grew aware of the works’ beauty and value. Art museums exhibited and published the textiles. All four groups–weavers, dealers, collectors and museums–consider Navajo rugs and tapestries as Art.

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Navajo weavers are diverse and dynamic in their approaches to their work, and the “turning point” continues to evolve. The textiles demonstrate the fascinating and complex shift from traditional craft to fine art. They move away from anonymously made curios, functional home furnishings, and trade goods, to represent signed artistic expressions, focal display items, and museum-quality investments.

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Like other artists, native weavers of the American Southwest are affected today by challenging economic, cultural, and natural environments. Taking these into account, the exhibit emphasizes Navajo weavers’ successful efforts toward artistic self-determination, innovative production, and creative marketing.

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This exhibition and related programs were made possible by generous support from The Cooper Foundation in Lincoln, The Gloria F. Ross Foundation in New York, and The Gloria F. Ross Tapestry Program, Arizona State Museum in Tucson.

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For further description of the exhibition’s theme, click here.

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“A Turning Point: Navajo Weaving in the Late Twentieth Century”

Organization: Wendy Weiss, Mark Harris and Mary Zicafoose, Lincoln, Nebraska
Curation: Ann Lane Hedlund, Arizona State Museum, Tucson, Arizona
Graphic Design: Caesar Chaves and Carly Stevens, Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
Preparation: Sharon Vandenack and volunteers
Installation (Nebraska): Joel Nielsen and Ron Pike
Programming (Nebraska): Michael Burton, Kathleen French and Judy Newland
Public Relations (Nebraska): Dana Ludvik

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