by John Aldrich
This is the title of a recently opened exhibition at the Utah Museum Of Natural History. Although basket weaving isn't as inherently identified with Navajo culture as rug weaving, the former art has always been an important part of artistic expression on the reservation. The skill is primarily manifested in the northern reaches of the reservation where proximity to the Piute people is thought to have played a role in the acquisition of this skill.
Until recently the principal product of basket makers was the traditional Navajo ceremonial basket.
Twin Rocks Trading Post in Bluff, Utah which was established in 1989. Steve and Barry Simpson wanted to continue a family tradition of supporting Native American artisans and hopefully make a living as well. Being on the northern edge of the reservation, they had ample exposure to weavers presenting baskets for them to purchase and offer for sale to visitors to their establishment.
In the course of purveying these baskets to their customers, the Simpson brothers couldn't resist retaining a few pieces for their personal collection.Thus, over the next twenty years or so their collection grew to impressive proportions. Several years ago this treasure of about 150 baskets was acquired by the Utah Museum of Natural history which has just put it on display in a breathtaking exhibition worthy of the artistic level of the pieces.
Compare this basket with the ceremonial basket shown above:
This is one of my favorite pieces in the collection:
Now lets take a quick tour of the exhibit at the museum:
Upon entering, this understated wall sets the tone for the show - beautiful art presented in a simple and engaging manner.
A special treat for visitors to the museum yesterday was Anderson Black, a son of Mary's, who was demonstrating his art to a throng of fascinated people.
And if you're within traveling distance of Bluff, I'm sure Steve and Barry would love to have you stop by. The basket makers of the area continue to create wonderful pieces of art and a good selection is always on display at the trading post.