Sunset. Fire. Rainbow. Drawing on such common occurrences of light, Navajo artists have crafted an uncommon array of design in colored glass beads. Beadwork is an art form introduced to the Navajos through other Indian and Euro-American contacts, but it is one that they have truly made their own. More than simple crafts, Navajo beaded designs are architectures of light.
Ellen Moore has written the first history of Navajo beadworkbelts and hatbands, baskets and necklacesin a book that examines both the influence of Navajo beliefs in the creation of this art and the primacy of light and color in Navajo culture. Navajo Beadwork: Architectures of Light traces the evolution of the art as explained by traders, Navajo consultants, and Navajo beadworkers themselves. It also shares the visions, words, and art of 23 individual artists to reveal the influences on their creativity and show how they go about creating their designs.
As Moore reveals, Navajo beadwork is based on an aggregate of beliefs, categories, and symbols that are individually interpreted and transposed into beaded designs. Most designs are generated from close observation of light in the natural world, then structured according to either Navajo tradition or the newer spirituality of the Native American Church. For many beadworkers, creating designs taps deeply embedded beliefs so that beaded objects reflect their thoughts and prayers, their aesthetic sensibilities, and their sense of being Navajobut above all, their attention to light and its properties.
No other book offers such an intimate view of this creative process, and its striking color plates attest to the wondrous results. Navajo Beadwork: Architectures of Light is a valuable record of ethnographic research and a rich source of artistic insight for lovers of beadwork and Native American art.
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