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BOOK REVIEW

COLLECTING NAVAJO AND PUEBLO TEXTILES

 

By Antoine du Rocher

NEW YORK, 18 DECEMBER 2005—The Navajo and Pueblo of the Southwestern United States believe that the culture hero Spider Woman has taught them to create with patience, understanding, and sensitivity.  Laurie D. Webster's Collecting the Weaver's Art: The William Claflin Collection of Southwestern Textiles confirms this belief in her excellent  overview of the weaving traditions found in sixty-six Pueblo and Navajo textiles donated to the Peabody Museum in the 1980s by William Claflin, Jr., a prominent Boston businessman, avocational anthropologist, and patron of Southwestern archaeology.  Claflin bequeathed to the museum the textiles and his detailed accounts of their collection histories. In fact, the chapter devoted to Clafin's sources for his collection features a colourful gallery of fascinating and  quirky personalities including Indian agents, military officers, a Ute Indian leader, a New England schoolteacher, as well as assorted Euro-American visitors to the American southwest.

Artist and collector Anthony Berlant's remarks of the impact of Navajo blankets on Modernist painters such as Marsden Hartley, Joan Sloan and Georgia O'Keeffe and later abstract expressionists Jackson Pollack and Barnet Newman are informative. That he helped collect blankets for Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Sam Fancis, Brice Mardem Tony Caro, Arman, Richard Diebenkorn, Roy Lichtenstein among others is not only significant for la petite histoire, but also for Berlant's understanding of the aesthetics and design elements of the Navajo blanket. 

Collecting the Weaver's Art
The William Claflin Collection of Southwestern Textiles

By Laurie D. Webster
Foreword by Tony Berlant
Haravard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts (April 2005)
Peabody Museum Collections Series
Paperback, 160 pages
43 color illustrations, 17 halftones
ISBN 0-87365-400-5
$21.95 / £14.95 / E20.3

 

Weaving and textile aficionados in search of a more comprehensive presentation and assessment of Navajo and Pueblo textiles should not hesitate to acquire anthropologist Kathleen Whitaker's Southwest Textiles . Although difficult to find, this superb, limited edition tells the story of the history and evolution of Navajo and Pueblo fabric arts. Over 250 outstanding examples from the Southwest Museum's collection in Los Angeles are reproduced in full colour, along with 49 historical photographs. An accompanying CD-ROM includes comprehensive charts of the fiber and construction analysis performed on each of the blankets illustrated in the book. The charts are prefaced by an overview of the analysis. Also on the CD is a complete inventory of the museum's southwestern textiles collection.

Southwest Textiles: Weavings of the Pueblo and Navajo 
By Kathleen Whitaker
University of Washington Press (August 2002)
Hardcover and CD ROM Edition: 432 pages
ISBN: 0295982268
Once listed at $65.00, a new copy can command $350 on the web.



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