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Press: Native American Art Magazine - The Dazzled Eye - Issue 7 - Feb-March 2017


A NEW EXHIBITION AT THE TUCSON DESERT ART MUSEUM explores the exquisite weaving collection of Steve and Gail Getzwiller.
Feb / Mar 2017 - Tucson, AZ
"Gaudy", barbaric," "an aesthetic debauch" -- many Western critics in the late 1800s found Navajo eye dazzler weavings with their vivid synthetic-dyed colors and pulsating designs jarring and ill-fitted to their Victorian decor.  Not until the Op Art movement in the 1960s did collectors and artists alike go wild for these textiles that produced similar tricks on the eye but were created far earlier by Navajo weavers. 

At the Tucson Desert Art Museum through May 28, THE DAZZLED EYE: Navajo Weavings from the Getzwiller Collection  examines the rich history of Navajo eye dazzlers and optical textiles, contrasts these works of woven art with those from the Op Art Movement, and explores how mid-century artists helped to bring recognition to the generation a of Navajo weavers.  This exhibition features nearly 40 historic eye dazzler and optical weavings from dozens of unnamed Navajo weavers as well as contemporary weavings by Selena Yazzie and Francis Begay.

THE DAZZLED EYE is curated by Alyssa Travis, Tucson Desert Art Museum associate curator, and has been made possible through a generous loan from Steve and Gail Getzwiller, world-renowned collectors and owners of the Nizhoni Ranch Gallery in Sonoita, Arizona, that specializes in historic, early regional and contemporary Navajo weavings. "My appreciation stemming from my collaboration with the Tucson Desert Art Museum is for the opportunity to share with the public weavings that I have collected and cherished throughout the years.  I have been fortunate to do this in the past several years and very much look forward to sharing other aspects of my collection in the coming years," says Steve Getzwiller.

Commenting on the exhibition, Travis said,"Eye dazzler weavings are a powerful expression of changing times for the Navajo.  In the 1870s, the Navajo had just been through a tragic, four-year confinement at Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico and were adjusting to life on the reservation.  The Churro sheep whose wool they had depended on for yarn had been killed, and now they had access to these new commercial yarns and synthetic dyes brought to them via the new Santa Fe Railroad.  They responded to these changes with a vibrant art, on that sadly didn't receive much appreciation for another 80 years.  This exhibition explores not only the rich history of these weavings, but also how the popularity of these weavings has grown throughout the years."

"The museum is proud to present the exquisite collection from the Getzwiller's that brilliantly showcases the history of these timeless creations," says Rhonda Smith, director of the Tucson Desert Art Museum.  "The Navajo weavers were arguably some of the earliest to use the woven art as canvases to experiment with optically stunning and challenging illusions, far in advance of our own Op Art movement in the '60s after the Color Field and Op Art Movements and minimalism had caused a shift in the American aesthetic that people finally had their eyes opened to how genius this generation of Navajo weavers had been.  They began noticing how these Navajo women in the late 1800s were creating works that were very visually similar to the art of the 1950s and 1960s." 

Lifelong collector, Steve Getzwiller first developed interest in Navajo weavings in his late teens when Amerind Foundation director Charles Di Peso took him under his wing.  "Dr. Charles Di Peso was the director at the time and was a very good friend of my family.  As a kid I virtually had the run of that museum, exposing myself to all manner of American Indian material and became totally enamored with the Navajo weavings," says Steve Getzwiller, "As an 18-yer-old I traded my childhood collection of Winchester .22 rifles and haven't looked back from there."  He has been collecting ever since and has worked closely with Navajo weavers for the last 35 years, often working with grandmothers, mothers and daughters of the same family.  His personal collection includes Navajo Churro, historic, Navajo weavings and contemporary Navajo rugs.

Through May 28, 2017

THE DAZZLED EYE:Navajo Weavings from the Getzwiller Collection 

Tucson Desert Art Museum
7000 E. Tanque Verde Road, Tucson, AZ 85715
1. Third Phase Style Moki Blanket, 1880, 4-ply Germantown yarn, 61 1/2" x 46"
2. Steve and Gail Getzwiller, world-renowned collectors of weavings.  Photo courtesy Nizhoni Ranch Gallery
3. Third phase chief blanket variant, Navajo, 1880. 4-ply Germantown yarn, 56" x 78"
4. Double saddle blanket, Navajo, circa 1930s, Lincoln wool with aniline dyes, 6 1/2' x 30"
5. J.B. Moore Plate II Blanket, Navajo,  circa 1864-1875, 3-ply Germantown yarn, 71" x 42"
6. Saxony blanket, Navajo, circa 1875, natural dyed 3-ply Saxony, Bayeta and flannel with likely Churro wool, 52" x 77"
View images from this exhibit.  Click here