Press: Timeless Treasures - Native American Arts Dec/Jan 2018
Over the past 40 years, Steve Getzwiller has compiled a broad collection of Navajo weavings that includes Two Grey Hills examples. These are considered to be among the finest of Navajo textiles and are marked by their simple color palette, geometric designs and the artist’s mastery of carding and spinning. Through April 2018, Getzwiller’s in Sonoita, Arizona, will display nearly 50 historic and several contemporary examples from his collection in the exhibition Timeless Treasures of Two Grey Hills.
The pieces on display will reflect the history and influences of the regional style throughout time. Earliest examples include works by master weavers Daily Taugelchee and Bessie Manygoats, while newer textiles are by Helen Bia, Elsie Bia, Carrie Yazzie, Cara Gorman, James Sherman and more.
In his 2002 book Diné: A History of the Navajo, Peter Iverson, a leading Native American history scholar and regents professor of history at Arizona State University, explains. “[T]he Depression affected the course of Navajo weaving during the 1930’s. Adverse economic times did not encourage the market. Nevertheless, the Santa Fe Railway, the Fred Harvey Company and other boosters of Southwest tourism continues to bring new and return visitors to the [Two Grey Hills/Toadlena] region. The founding of the Gallup International Ceremonial and the development of museums in Arizona and New Mexico furnished important venues for the display of high-quality work.”
He further writes that trading posts struggled during that time, especially with the passing of trader J. L. Hubbell in 1930. Newcomers, such as Bill and Sallie Lippincott at Wide Ruins and Cozy McSparron of Chinle, however, continued to promote regional styles and even encouraged new aesthetics in the weavings, such as the use of vegetal dyes.
“Even under these difficult circumstances, Navajo weavers continued to create extraordinary work,” writes Iverson. “Daisy Taugelchee of the Toadlena/Two Grey Hills area, arguably the greatest of all Navajo weavers, came into her own as a remarkable artist. Other area weavers, such as Bessie Manygoats, contributed to the outpouring of weaving that established Toadlena/Two Grey Hills weaving as the premier Navajo regional style.”
According to Getzwiller, the Two Grey Hills style was officially established in the 1920’s. Many of these earliest examples can only be attributed to specific weavers, as the names of the artisans were not kept. “So [the weavers] defined themselves by developing their own style,” says Getzwiller. “That is how we’re able to attribute the textiles---by having an understanding of their particular style of design.”
For instance, the works of Taugelchee are known for her super fine weaving, while the pieces of Manygoats often contain a three-column, floral design. “[Manygoats] was way ahead of her time in design, innovation wise,” says Getzwiller. “That’s what made her work so appealing to dealers and the collectors in that time period.”
Primarily the pieces in the style are done with natural wools, but in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, traders such as Willard Leighton at the Two Grey Hills Trading Post inspired the use of color in the work. Leighton, in particular, is noted for encouraging weavers to incorporate turquoise as an accent color in the piece. For example, a textile attributed to Katherine Nathaniel from around the 1950’s features borders and squares done in the color. There also was the addition of reds in some weavings of the area.
Timeless Treasures also includes work by Helena Taugelchee Nez Begay, who was a weaving instructor at the Toadlena Boarding School. A circa 1945 photograph of her at the loom depicts a rug that Getzwiller owned for 15 years before Iverson discovered the image while researching his book. The rug will be on display in the show.
Article courtesy Native American Art Magazine