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Navajo Weavings with Ceremonial Themes: A Historical Overview of a Secular Art Form

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Navajo Weavings with Ceremonial Themes: A Historical Overview of a Secular Art Form

Rebecca M. Valette & Jean-Paul Valette

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Featuring more than 500 photos and maps, this is the first comprehensive, research-based history of Navajo weavings with imagery inspired by tribal sacred practices. These Yei, Yeibichai, and sandpainting textiles have been the most sought after by collectors and the least studied by scholars. In spite of their iconography, they never served a ceremonial function. They were created by Navajo women at the instigation of Anglo traders, for sale to wealthy collectors willing to pay premium prices for their perceived spiritual symbolism. This book describes the historical and artistic development of the genre from its controversial emergence around 1900, to the 1920-1940 period of intense creativity, and concluding with the contemporary search for innovative patterns. Never-before-published weavings, detailed annotations, and an extensive bibliography make this an invaluable reference for scholars and collectors, and a fascinating exploration for all who are interested in the Southwest and its native cultures.

Size: 8 1/2″ x 11″ | 536 color & b/w maps and images | 432 pp
ISBN13: 9780764353741 | Binding: hard cover

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Rebecca Valette grew up in Boulder, Colorado, in a home decorated with traditional Navajo rugs. Her husband, Jean-Paul, discovered the beauty of these weavings while the two were studying for their PhDs at the University of Colorado. In the 1970s, they acquired a Navajo blanket featuring a tall single dancer. Intrigued by its imagery, they began investigating its history and origin. Over the next four decades, they assembled a collection of over one hundred ceremonial-themed textiles. They also published several articles in American Indian Art Magazine and Hali and curated two museum exhibits of Yeibichai weavings. The many aspects of their research, which has taken them across the Navajo Reservation and to museums around the country, are brought together here in this comprehensive volume. Every August, the Valettes return west to Santa Fe to enjoy its invigorating atmosphere and to reconnect with Navajo artists, collectors, and scholars.