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Celebrating Native American Design

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Indian Blankets., Digital ID 818606, New York Public LibraryI’m slipping off and attending an exciting celebration on Thursday, so my next post will come on Friday. The National Museum of the American Indian in lower Manhattan will be holding an awards event, A Single Thread: Celebrating Native American Design and Style. Five native artists will be honored for their accomplishments, and most of them work in textiles and adornment. I know three of the artists personally, so this will be a fine time to let them know how much their contributions to the arts are appreciated.

Joe Baker, from the Delaware Nation, is one of those natives who has achieved astounding success in the fine arts, with his paintings receiving significant awards. Joyce Growing Thunder Fogarty (Assiniboine/Sioux) is a model for future generations of Plains artists working with beading and dressmaking. Dorothy Grant (Haida) has established her own brand as a purveyor of stylish clothing rendered with Northwest Coast designs. I bought a jacket, embellished with a totemic raven figure, from her in Vancouver years ago that I literally wore to pieces. Veronica Poblano is one of Zuni Pueblo’s most talented jewelers—a huge compliment since Zuni is known for having a large pool of talented lapidary workers and silversmiths. And Denise Wallace’s (Chugach-Aleut) exquisite jewelry-making incorporates the finest of ivory and fossilized bone work, while paying tribute to her cultural heritage.

The influence of ethnic design on clothing has grown greatly since the last quarter of the twentieth century. But I’m still surprised and irritated that Native American design doesn’t get more acknowledgement than it does. Does anyone have any ideas why this is so?

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