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August Issue 2006

Mint Museum of Craft + Design in Charlotte, NC, Features Exhibition of Basket Collection

Woven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection will be on view at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design in Charlotte, NC, from Sept. 9 through Dec. 31, 2006.

For centuries, American Indians have woven remarkable basketry suffused with their cultural heritage. Showcasing 125 baskets, Woven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection honors tribal groups from the United States, Canada and northern Mexico, and weaves together the interrelationship between the artists and the collector, Clark Field. This special exhibition and its companion catalogue are the culmination of four years of concentration on the Philbrook Museum of Art's encyclopedic collection of baskets dating from the late 19th to the mid-20th century.

American Indian basket weavers have long transformed grasses, roots, ferns and bark into works of art unsurpassed for their aesthetic appeal. By the close of the 19th century, museums and collectors were scrambling to acquire authentic American Indian baskets from what was thought to be a "vanishing culture." What began as a hobby in 1915 for Field, a Tulsa, OK, businessman, turned into an obsession by the 1930s. Field's passion for American Indian basketry took him 125,000 miles, to approximately 142 different tribal groups, resulting in a 1,070 piece collection of American Indian baskets.

Field's journey from Tulsa to New Mexico and California, through the deserts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah, and north to the cold Northwest Coast and Alaska is traced in his pursuit of baskets featuring excellent craftsmanship and magnificent beauty. Masterpieces from approximately 80 tribal groups are represented in this exhibition, including Washoe artist Louisa Keyser's (Dat So La Lee) spectacular Degikup (1918) and an outstanding Pomo Feather Basket, as well as Apache and Pima trays.

Beginning with the first basket Field collected in 1915, a Jicarilla Apache hamper, the exhibition is arranged by regions. Examples of work from eight regions are on display: the Southwest, Southeast, the Intermountain West (including the Great Basin and Plateau), California, Northwest Coast, Arctic and Sub Arctic, Plains and Prairie, and Eastern Woodlands (including the Northeast and Great Lakes). Each region focuses on technique and materials in relation to the culture and environment of the native peoples living there, allowing an opportunity to compare and contrast baskets from the eight regions and witness the vast diversity among the indigenous peoples of North and Central America.

To tell these stories more clearly, included in the exhibition are historic photographs and two textiles: a Chilkat Blanket in the Northwest Coast section, and a Navajo Third Phase Chief's-style Blanket in the Southwest section. The story of the collector Clark Field will also unfold from region to region.

Woven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection celebrates the tightly focused vision of one collector and the artistic and geographic diversity found within the American Indian culture. In Field's own words, "To the novice there is the obvious difference in shape, color and texture of Indian baskets. To the collector there is the hint of the whole pattern of life of the Indians who produced the basket." An innate appreciation of the beauty of American Indian basketry allowed Field to become part of a process of interrelations between European-Americans and American Indians.

Today, this collection is considered one of the most significant basketry collections in North America for its exceptional breadth, beauty and aesthetic quality. Relive the remarkable journey of a dedicated collector and celebrate the woven worlds of American Indians at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.

There will be many unique opportunities in the coming months for the community to participate in Woven Worlds-related activities, including craft demonstrations by American Indian artists, children's classes, teacher workshops, public lectures, a family day, family fun guide to the exhibition, and artist residencies in local schools.

The Mint Museums are supported, in part, with a Basic Operating Grant from the Arts & Science Council, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Inc.; the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of North Carolina and the National Endowment for the Arts; the City of Charlotte; and their members.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 704/337-2000 or at (www.mintmuseum.org).



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