Southwestern Indian Jewelry by Dexter CirilloSouthwestern Indian Jewelry by Dexter Cirillo

Southwestern Indian Jewelry

byDexter Cirillo

Hardcover | July 1, 1992

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Spectacular photographs of the breathtaking beautiful objects and sensitive portraits of the artists combine with an insightful, informative text to capture the spirit of this work and the vital cultures from which it springs.
This ground-breaking volume opens by surveying the vividly colored necklaces, earrings, and pins made in shell and stone from prehistoric times to the present, particularly in the Santo Domingo and Zuni pueblos. The focus then shifts to the much-admired and avidly collected work in silver — often set with turquoise and other stones — by Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni artists. The book culminates in an exploration of striking contemporary work in which many artists have adapted traditional approaches to create original designs. A collector's guide offers invaluable advice as well as an illustrated glossary of materials, techniques, objects, and designs. A nationwide directory of sources concludes the book.
Dexter Cirillo is an independent scholar, curator, and dealer who lives in New York and Aspen.
Title:Southwestern Indian JewelryFormat:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9.4 × 10.6 × 0.98 inPublished:July 1, 1992Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1558592822

ISBN - 13:9781558592827

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Read from the Book

IntroductionIndian Market is a phenomenon that occurs every August in Santa Fe, New Mexico, two weeks before Labor Day. For one brief weekend, Native American artists from southwestern pueblos and tribes come together to sell their pottery, textiles, jewelry, baskets, clothing, paintings, and sculpture directly to collectors, gallery owners, museum officials, artists agents, and other aficionados of American Indian art. It is a moment of great excitement and frenzied activity. Artists save their finest pieces for the intensely competitive judging that precedes the market. And the population of Santa Fe doubles as thousands of eager collectors pour into the downtown plaza to wait, sometimes all night, for the chance to buy from their favorite artists.The first Indian Market took place in 1922 as part of an annual Fiestas de Santa Fe celebration. It was conceived by Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett--a renowned anthropologist and director of both the Museum of New Mexico and the School of American Research--to perpetuate traditional arts and crafts in the Southwest. For the region's Native Americans, the political climate of the 1920s was distressingly turbulent. The Indian Commissioner had issued a ban on all Indian dances as part of a national policy aimed at assimilating native cultures. And the Bursum Bill, which threatened the land and water rights of twenty pueblos, was being considered by the United States Senate.To protect the rights of the Pueblo Indians, who were not yet U.S. citizens, a group of concerned citizens formed the New Mexico Association on Indian Affairs. Recognizing the importance of Dr. Hewetts efforts to sustain the artistic life of Native Americans, the association joined forces with his committee and in 1933 took over the sponsorship of Indian Market. In 1936, the association started another Santa Fe tradition by arranging for Indian craftsmen to sell their work under the portal at the palace of the Governors in Santa Fe (plate 2). This gave Native Americans a year-round marketplace, which stimulated their production and helped establish an economy based on handmade crafts.Under the sponsorship of the Southwestern Association on Indian Affairs (the name adopted by the New Mexico Association on Indian Affairs in 1961), Indian Market has grown into one of the largest and most prestigious exhibitions of American Indian art in the world. The originality and sophistication of the work shown each year by the ever-increasing number of artists at Indian Market confirms that southwestern art is not frozen in the past but is continually evolving into new forms. Nowhere is this more evident than in the jewelry. In 1991, one-third of the more than one thousand artists selected to participate in Indian Market were jewelers, who submitted work for judging in over seventy-five categories in six divisions. Jewelry may be the field of southwestern Indian art that is changing, and expanding, the fastest. It is also one of the oldest forms of indigenous art in North America, and some of its materials--particularly turquoise and shell--have been used since prehistoric times.The primary jewelry-making cultures in the Southwest--a region that encompasses New Mexico and Arizona and extends north to the Four Corners area, where Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico share a common border--are the Hopi of Arizona, the Zuni and Rio Grande Pueblos of New Mexico, and the Navajo, whose reservation bridges Arizona and New Mexico and extends into southern Utah. In all of these cultures, jewelry holds a place of special importance. Beyond its value as a trade item and a symbol of personal wealth and status (plate 4), jewelry is also part of the dramatic and colorful pageantry of Pueblo dances. As emblems of the sky and water--the home of the sun and the source of rain--turquoise and shell are linked to growth and renewal, the forces central to so many of the dances.Artifacts from hundreds of prehistoric sites dotting the Southwest indicate that jewelry making by the Native Americans there has spanned more than two thousand years. To adorn themselves and their clothing, prehistoric southwestern Indians produced innumerable types of beads, pendants, bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings, and buttons, utilizing such diverse materials as stone, shell, wood, clay, and bone (plate 5). Evidence suggests that they exchanged ideas, materials, and objects along well-established trade routes for centuries before Europeans started to explore this continent.From approximately 300 B.C. to A.D. 1540 (the beginning of the historical period), three major cultural groups inhabited the Southwest, developing agricultural communities based on the cultivation of corn, squash, and beans. The Hohokam settled in southern Arizona along the Gila, Salt, and Santa Cruz rivers, where they refined the artistry of creating jewelry from shells. The Anasazi (whose name is a Navajo word meaning "The Ancients") occupied the high-plateau country of the Four Corners area, where they built the grand cities of multistoried cliff dwellings and ceremonial chambers found at Mesa Verde in Colorado and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. And the Mogollon, renowned for their distinctive figurative pottery, founded their villages in the mountainous region of eastern Arizona and the Mimbres Valley of southwestern New Mexico. These cultures all reached the pinnacle of their artistic expression during approximately the same period, between A.D. 900 and 1200. The legacy of their traditions in making turquoise and shell jewelry enriches the southwestern Indian cultures of today.Much of the prehistoric jewelry featured turquoise and shell, but other stones were also used, including argillite, azurite, hematite, jet, malachite, pipestone, and serpentine (plate 6). In addition to beads, pendants in various geometric and organic shapes were also popular and have been found in abundance throughout the Southwest (plate 48). The life forms depicted in the pendants include many types of birds, often in profile, as well as animals that might have been encountered in the hunt (plate 7). Animals associated with water, such as frogs and turtles, also appear frequently, as do snakes, whose sinuous shape may have represented lightning. For cultures inhabiting a semiarid environment in which water was--and is--a precious commodity, water symbols were predictably popular and proliferate on pottery as well as in jewelry.A major drought in the Southwest during the thirteenth century may have caused the eventual disappearance of these three prehistoric cultures. Some have suggested that raids by the seminomadic Apache and Navajo, who migrated into the Southwest sometime between A.D. 1000 and the 1400s, were also a factor in the abandonment of the settlements. By the time the Spanish arrived from Mexico in 1540, they found the probable descendants of the Anasazi in towns along the Rio Grande valley in New Mexico, at Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico, and further north at the Hopi villages in Arizona. Some Mogollon may have intermingled with the Anasazi to become ancestors of the Zuni, but most seem to have moved south, merging with the inhabitants of Casas Grandes, another prehistoric site in northern Mexico. The Hohokam became the ancestors of the modern Pima and Tohono O'odham (formerly known as Papago) tribes of southern Arizona.When the Spanish entered the Southwest, they found small adobe villages inhabited by Native Americans scattered throughout the Rio Grande valley. The configuration of these settlements, with internal plazas surrounded by multiroomed attached dwellings, reminded the Spanish of their own towns, and so they called them pueblos (the Spanish word for "village") and their inhabitants, Pueblo Indians. When Spain formally claimed possession of the Southwest in 1598, the Spanish assigned saints names to the pueblos, such as Santo Domingo, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, and San Juan.The Spanish established their first capital at San Juan Pueblo, then moved it the next year to another Indian settlement, subsequently called San Gabriel. In 1610, the seat of government was permanently located in Santa Fe, which is the oldest capital in the United States. With the Spanish came the Catholic priests sent to convert the Pueblo Indians and exact oaths of obedience from them. The bitter resistance of all the Pueblos to the Spanish incursion into their land and their culture led to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, when the Pueblos united to drive the Spanish out of the Southwest and to keep them out for the next twelve years.Prior to the Spaniards arrival, the Navajo and the Apache had migrated to the Southwest from what is now western Canada, sometime between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries. Unlike the sedentary Pueblo peoples, the Navajo were hunters and gatherers who traveled in small groups guided by a headman, moving over a large area from southern Colorado to western New Mexico and Arizona. They eventually settled in the Dinetah, or homeland (in northwestern New Mexico), which is circumscribed by their four sacred mountains: Mount Hesperus and Blanca Peak in Colorado, the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, and Mount Taylor in New Mexico. Their own name for themselves is Dine (meaning "The People"). Navajo derives from Nabaju, a place in the Chama Valley where some had settled; they were referred to by the Spanish in a 1626 document as "the Apaches of Nabaju."From their contacts with Pueblo people--especially during the Spanish reconquest of 1692-96, when many inhabitants of the Rio Grande pueblos fled to hide with them--the Navajo learned weaving, pottery making, farming, and animal husbandry; they also assimilated many of the Pueblos religious and social concepts into their own ceremonial life and clan system. From the Spanish, the Navajo procured horses and sheep, which increased their mobility and transformed their economy into one based on raiding, herding, and eventually weaving. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Navajo were a force to be reckoned with because of their frequent and often devastating raids on both Spanish and Pueblo settlements.In 1821, the Mexican Revolution ended Spanish rule of the Southwest, and Mexico governed the region until the 1846 war with the United States. With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848, Mexico ceded the Southwest to the United States. The next fifteen years saw many skirmishes between the Navajo and the United States government, but this turbulence ended abruptly when Colonel Kit Carson was ordered to obliterate the Navajo crops and livestock. Demoralized by defeat and near starvation, the Navajo surrendered to the army. In August 1863, the first Navajo prisoners began "The Long Walk," covering three hundred miles from Fort Defiance (on the border between Arizona and New Mexico) to the Bosque Redondo Reservation in eastern New Mexico. The remainder of the nearly eighty-five hundred Navajo imprisoned at the fort were marched to Bosque Redondo the following spring, where the United States government attempted to convert them forcibly into farmers. The experiment failed miserably, and four years later the Navajo were allowed to go "home" to a reservation established for them in northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona and bordered by the San Juan River in southern Utah.Jewelry became essential to the Navajo economy in the early reservation years because it provided them with goods they could use for barter in case their depleted herds failed them. Jewelry could also be easily transported and was quickly incorporated into the Navajos independent and mobile way of life. Although the Navajo had long been trading with Pueblo Indians for turquoise and shell jewelry, they made their own jewelry in silver, using skills they acquired in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Silver had been introduced to the Southwest by the Spanish, but it did not become part of a Native American jewelry-making tradition until the Navajo took it up and, in turn, taught their neighbors.In contrast to their tumultuous history has been the relative stability of Navajo ceremonial life, which is centered on maintaining balance and harmony within the individual and within the universe. The nine-day Night Chant ceremony of the Navajo ends with the blessing "Walk in beauty." Beauty is balance, order, symmetry--philosophical tenets that carry over into aesthetic principles and are reflected in their jewelry. Indeed, these are characteristics of the best of all southwestern Indian jewelry.Southwestern Indian Jewelry is a book about the rich diversity of contemporary jewelry and its makers. It is also a book about the traditions on which this jewelry is based. The artists discussed here take their place in the continuum of those traditions while inaugurating new ones of their own. I have not written an exhaustive history of southwestern Indian jewelry; rather, I have provided an overview of the past and a selection of present artists whose work exemplifies the best of its kind. Not every artist here is well known though many are nationally distinguished. Some have never entered Indian Market; others have won the highest honors there and at other major competitions. The majority are self-taught, having learned through observation of family members and on-the-job training. For most, jewelry is their livelihood. Nearly all of the jewelers included are still at work and began their careers within the last two decades. They have been selected for their innovations in style and in materials as well as for their technical excellence. There are many deserving jewelers who, unfortunately, could not be part of this book because of space restrictions. Their exclusion does not, of course, in any way diminish their excellence.It has been my privilege to meet and interview almost all of the artists in this book, and I have visited many of their studios. What has been singularly impressive is their sense of engagement with the traditions and the possibilities of jewelry making. McKee Platero, a young Navajo silversmith, speaks for tradition when he says, "You have to respect the stone. . . . Turquoise is perfection." And for Charles Supplee, a Hopi jeweler, "Indian art is so young that it is going to keep changing. It can go in any direction. It is up to individuals to change things." Both statements summarize the attitudes and achievements of the jewelers in this book, whose work is dramatic evidence of the transformation of southwestern Indian jewelry from craft into art.

Table of Contents


Patterns in Stone: Beads and Mosaic Jewelry from Prehistory to the Present

Designs in Metal: A History of Southwestern Silver Jewelry

New Directions: Contemporary Jewelry in Metal and Stone

A Collectors Guide and Glossary


Sources for Jewelry


Suggestions for Further Reading


From Our Editors

A dazzling exploration of both traditional and contemporary jewelry. Spectacular photographs of the beautiful jewelry and sensitive portraits of the artists combine with an insightful, informative text to capture the spirit of this work and of the cultures from which it springs. Includes a collector's guide and a directory of sources. 210 illustrations, 155 in full color

Editorial Reviews

"Since prehistoric times, the native peoples of the Southwestern part of what is now the United States have used turquoise and shell, symbols of sky and water, in the jewelry they have made for personal adornment. Cirillo outlines how Native Americans worked other stones into this artistic vocabulary and how they borrowed silver and silversmithing from the Spanish in the 19th century. She traces the delicate relationship between traditional design and the demands of trade; the techniques usually associated with Navaho, Zuni, and Hopi artists; and the contemporary sharing and swapping of creative ideas. Much of the splendidly illustrated jewelry here is made by family groups who share both design and execution responsibilities; and though much of it is museum quality, none of it is unwearable. Cirillo ends with a glossary and a list of reputable dealers throughout the country (she includes New York's best gallery, so her sources are sound). Excellent for collectors and for those who seek to define the dance between art and commerce."- GraceAnne A. DeCandido, School Library Journal