There was a time in Navajo weaving when bright, colorful dyes created many wonderful and exciting patterns. It was almost like an explosion of joy when Navajo weavers were provided with colorful commercial yarns and aniline dyes.
I like to believe that the colors that came to life when people were imprisoned during the Civil War expressed hope for the Navajo. In 2021, an exhibit was held at the Heard Museum because a wonderful woman who has been a driving force in promoting Navajo weaving, Carol Ann Mackay, would not let go of the idea of creating an exhibit of these extraordinary weavings.
As co-curator of the show with the Heard curatorial staff and several weavers, she was responsible for bringing this period to life. The catalog for the show, which also was exhibited at the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey, was called Color Riot! How Color Changed Navajo Textiles. The show features weavings from the 1860s to the 1930s. These weavings make a person feel good!
What made me think of color in Navajo weaving? Well, a lovely weaver named Jean Paul sent me a text saying she had a rug to sell that was a runner. I replied and asked her to text me a photograph. (Isn’t it amazing how the process has changed?)
Two minutes later, I looked at a stunning, colorful weaving about two feet longer than the tall weaver! No one says “no” to a weaving like this, and Jean brought it up the next day. It was even more beautiful than the photograph!
Another of our favorite weavers, Anthony Tallboy, who usually works in red, grey, black, and white, had shown up about a month before with a storm pattern in some beautiful colors, including blue, which I don’t believe he has ever used before. In addition to the colors, it has an eerie, almost three-dimensional aspect.
Anthony doesn’t send text photos of his weavings. When he comes, it is a trip with his sisters, nephews, and, usually, his sweet mother. She is one of my favorite people, and while she has been having some health issues lately, she always has a smile and hugs to share.
One time, I had a sand painting weaving and was looking at it when Anthony walked in. Since he is a medicine man, I thought asking him about some of the symbolism in the rug was reasonable. But when I did, I got a surprising answer.
“I don’t know,” he responded and just looked at me with a blank stare.
His mom walked up behind him, slapped him on the back of the head (he is a tall guy), and said, “You tell him!”
Then she smiled at me and sat down on the couch while Anthony explained with the symbolism meant. I was so shocked that I couldn’t remember what he told me!
Just last week, he brought in a small storm pattern, again with really bright colors. He had done it in about a month, so it is not large or detailed but a beautiful and colorful weaving.
So, here we are, right at Christmas, with three beautiful new colorful weavings that make a person feel good!