Lobby Exhibition


 hide drum

“Serpents and Songs,” Painted Hide Drum, 1987
Spencer McCarty (1960— ), Makah, Northwest Coast
PM 2008.20.50

Beats on drums play a central role in the whale hunting ceremonies of the Makah people of Washington state. Songs are used to ease paddling, to welcome whales to the village, and to praise returning hunters. Makah artist, McCarty, is both a musician and a carver. His depiction of the sea serpent, harpoon, and North Star honors the traditional hunting methods of his Makah ancestors.

 sago jar

Sago storage jar
Aibom Village, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
PM 2008.20.39

Pottery is the most prolific craft of the Aibom people who live along the clay-rich Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea. Small pots such as this are commonly used to store sago, an edible starch extracted from the trunk of the sago palm tree. Women collect the clay from pits near their village and shape the pot’s walls by forming coils that are pinched and pressed together. Men then decorate the pieces with sculptures depicting animal or human faces to embody the spirit of village ancestors.

 Pueblo dancer, painting

Painting, dancer
Tonita Peña Arquero “Quah Ah” (1893—1949), San Ildefonso and Cochita, New Mexico
PM 2008.20.46

Tonita Peña Arquero is best known for her detailed and colorful portraits of pueblo life. Ceremonial scenes are common subjects of her artwork, including both individual dancers and groups of dancers. Peña moved beyond customs that allowed only men to paint living figures, becoming the only woman in an artistic movement called the San Ildefonso Self-Taught Group. Her depictions of traditional pueblo customs through a nontraditional medium have made her an influential figure in contemporary Native American art.


southwestern pots

Southwest pottery
Patty Maho, (1903—1993), Hopi-Tewa, Arizona
PM 2008.20.21, Pm 2008.20.28

The swirling beaks and angled feathers of Patty Maho’s pottery are typical of the Sikyatki Revival style. Named after a 14th- to 17th-century Hopi village, Sikyatki is a decorative style using abstract representations of birds and flora. Maho’s predecessors, including the well-known potter Nampeyo (1860—1942), revived these motifs in the late 1800s. While the source of the inspiration remains a question, some suggest the revival resulted from potters’ exposure to archaeological excavations in Hopi villages.

 woven textile

Tree of Life Pictorial Weaving
Darlene Nez, Navajo, Arizona or New Mexico
PM 2008.20.61

Pictorial Navajo rugs emerged as a result of 19th-century tourism and the introduction of synthetically dyed yarn to the U.S Southwest. Weavers experimented with new colors and designs. They expanded beyond traditional geometric shapes and patterns to incorporate images of objects, animals, and pueblo scenes.

This rug depicts a popular pattern called the “Tree of Life.” Birds surround two cornstalks growing from baskets of cornmeal. Stylized mesas rise in the background.

 coiled basket

Coiled lidded basket, c. 1910
Yup’ik Village, Eskimo, Alaska
PM 2008.20.1

This globular example of grass basketry is common in the Yup’ik villages of western Alaska. The red and brown decorative elements are made of seal gut, a watertight material also used for raincoats and window coverings in the Northwest Coast. The seal gut is applied to the basket using imbrication, a technique in which the material is folded under the stitch on the outer surface of the basket.

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