The Southwest is known for Native American Art and the most prominent type of art in the Southwest is made by the Navajo. The Navajo tribe is the largest tribe in the United States. Their artwork encompasses all artistic disciplines and often incorporates themes of the Navajo people in the artwork. Read below to learn about their art.
Silverwork is one of the best known art forms among the Navajo. Navajo Jewelry is known for using large stones and organic shapes. The key to a well made piece of Navajo jewelry is the ability to focus the work on the innate beauty of Southwest rocks and minerals.
The predominant stone in Navajo jewelry is Turquoise though it is not uncommon to see other stones such as Opal, Lapis, and Black Jade. Additionally, shells such as Spiny oyster have become common in Navajo Jewelry for its unique textures and large array of colors.
The key to a well made piece of Navajo jewelry is the ability to focus the work on the innate beauty of Southwest rocks and minerals.
Some of the best examples of Traditional Navajo Jewelry include Bracelets, Concho Belts, Cluster Pins, Rings, and Squash Blossoms.
Squash Blossoms are large Navajo necklaces that were adopted from Conquistadors. The Squash Blossom is most commonly scene with a large crescent-shaped “Naja”. The earliest squash blossoms were made solely in silver but today squash blossoms have adopted the importance of stonework in their designs and often highlight the stones as the central component of the art, blending the art of Europe with traditional Navajo Art.
Navajo Bracelets are often adorned with intricate designs and turquoise. These usually adorned with clustered stones in a symmetric pattern.
Though rarely sold in stores, you may occasionally see the more traditional arm guard bracelets worn by Navajo men. These shields are much larger in size than traditional bracelets and are a sign of great strength as well as some of the most impressive art from the Navajo.
Rings, Earrings, and Pendants:
The rings, earrings, and pendants of the Navajo are typically adorned with turquoise. The stones themselves are often centrally placed and left in uncut form as opposed to the inlaid jewelry of the Zuni, though inlaid stones are become more common in Navajo jewelry.
Navajo Weavings is deeply rooted in Navajo Culture and has been passed down for over a thousand years from the Anasazi. The Navajos use upright looms that are similar to those used by the Anasazi and still incorporate the designs and look of their ancestors. Originally, Navajo weaving took place with cotton but was replaced in the 1600s by wool. Today, wool is the fabric of choice for Navajo Rugs.
There are numerous styles of Navajo rugs including:
Two Grey Hills
Two Grey Hills rugs have the reputation of being the finest Navajo Rugs. The Two Gray Hills region has a tradition of refusing to use commercially produced wools. Rather, the weavers use their own natural wool from local sheep. The wool is then spun to a very fine degree. These threads allow for much more intricate patterns than other types of rugs and the juxtaposition of many more natural hues. The Two Gray Hills rugs are usually found in muted natural colors such as Black, Gray, Beige, Brown, Cream and White because of the insistence on only using natural colors rather than the dyes found in other rugs.
Teec Nos Pos
Rugs from the Teec Nos Pos region are noted for their intricate designs that have been influenced by Persian rugs. The Teec Nos Pos rugs use an expansive color range and typically feature a broad geometric border in an “X” or “H” shape as well as a more intricate center section with smaller complimentary geometric designs.
Ganado rugs are primarily known for their color: “Ganado Red.” In these rugs, large portions of the rug will be made of a single color that is broken up by contrasting geometric patterns radiating from the center of the rug. These borders often feature borders that are more intricate in design than other rugs such as Teec Nos Pos.
Wide Ruins Rugs are similar to Chinle rugs in that they are often borderless. But unlike Chinle rugs, Wide Ruins rugs focus on mirroring geometric patterns vertically while repeating patterns horizontally. The mirroring effect gives these rugs excellent contrast without having to rely on large color shifts.
Klagetoh rugs are noted for their bold geometric designs. The traditional Klagetoh rug features a central diamond motif. The Klagetoh rugs are distinguished by their use of color.
Red Mesa Rugs, like Teec Mos Pos rugs are noted for their vibrant colors and deep reds. The Red Mesa style is typically a Bold Diamond Pattern. The most prominent design feature of these rugs is a line of chevrons running down the middle of the weaving. The chevrons are then surrounding by diamonds radiating from the center.
Unlike most styles of Navajo rugs, Chinle rugs often feature borderless rugs. Additionally Chinle patterns invoke a linear geometric pattern where the pattern repeats itself horizontally. This is in strong distinction to most other rugs such as Klagetoh rugs where the pattern radiates from the center of the rug.
Where to buy Navajo Art:
Navajo Art is available throughout the region and widely available at the Ortega’s Jewelry Stores and the El Rancho Hotel. If you would like more information about Navajo Art and where to buy it, please feel free to ask the staff at the El Rancho Hotel for assistance.