Highlighting a small sample of Diné (Navajo) textiles, this exhibition explores the creative impulse of one nation across time. The Diné believe their talent for weaving came directly from the gods: Spider Man, who gave them the gift of the upright loom, and Spider Woman, who taught them to weave. This artform has passed from generation to generation and still encourages weavers to experiment today.
In conjunction with our annual theme this year, Creating Connections, The Rockwell is celebrating art that sparks conversation, emotion, and community. “Spider Woman’s Gift” examines how the artist and their materials come together to create an object with spiritual, communal, and personal meaning.
Diné, or Navajo, tradition holds that when their people came into being, Spider Man bestowed upon them the gift of the loom and Spider Woman gave them the gift of weaving. Today, textile weaving, or dah’iistł’ó, is an artistic practice that connects the weaver’s creativity and individual spirit to their sense of community and history, or Hozhó. Each artist weaves the joy, sorrow, prayers and hopes for their lives into their work.
While the Diné adopted techniques from neighboring communities and preferred to use the wool from sheep introduced by the Spanish, they were known for hundreds of years for the exceptional quality of their blankets, which were highly valued by both Native and White traders. By the turn of the 20th century, many weavers, primarily women, began creating rugs for the popular market to survive the harsh economic conditions of the Reservation. They utilized patterns and colors that appealed to tourists and patrons in the Eastern states. Today, weavers of all genders celebrate the communal spirit and the individual vision that is woven into each textile.