Art exhibit highlights Navajo weavings

ATHENS, Ohio – Ohio University’s Kennedy Museum of Art will feature the exhibit “Hosteen Klah, Nadle Hatali: Gender, Transformation, and Navajo Weaving” now through April 29.

The exhibit features a collection of Navajo weavings that are a part of the museum’s Edwin L. and Ruth E. Kennedy Southwest Native American Collection and also includes pieces from the private collection of Jennifer McLerran.

Admission is free and open to the public.

Sandpainting weaving.

The exhibit focuses on a sandpainting weaving done by Hosteen Klah, a Navajo weaver and medicine man, and examines Klah’s importance to the development of Navajo weaving.

Several other Navajo sandpainting, Yei, and pictorial weavings are included in the exhibit.

Hosteen Klah (1867-1937) was perhaps the most well-known Navajo artist and “medicine man” (usually called a singer or chanter). He was especially important because he gave information to anthropologists and others about Navajo religion and ceremonial practices. He also gained great recognition as a weaver of unusual designs.

Among the Navajo, weavers are normally female, and chanters, hatali, are normally male. Hosteen Klah was both a weaver and a chanter.

Klah was trained in the traditionally male realm of ceremonial practice, chanting, and sandpainting from his uncle. Klah began his training in the traditionally female craft of weaving with his mother and sister in the 1880s.

This exhibit showcases Klah’s sandpainting weaving “The Skies” from the Shooting Way Chant. The image in this weaving duplicates the one used in the Shooting Way ceremony, which was one of Klah’s specialties as a Navajo medicine man. There are about 50 ceremonies, usually called “chants”, “sings”, or “ways.” Navajos who practice the traditional religion believe that such ceremonies can restore the health and well-being of their people.

Fortunate to have examples.

Klah was one of the first, if not the first, to weave using sandpainting imagery. His first weaving using sandpainting imagery (completed between 1900 and 1910) was woven in secret and kept hidden for several years before Navajo elders demanded that he destroy it. He sent it to Washington D.C. instead.

His first weaving of a complete sandpainting was finished in 1919.

The exhibit also features Navajo pictorial weavings. Pictorial weavings developed out of a combination of Navajo, European, and other regional Native pictorial traditions. Instead of depicting the sacred spaces associated with mythology, they depict the spaces and objects of everyday life.

The Kennedy Museum of Art is located in Lin Hall, The Ridges. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 12-5 p.m.; Thursday from 12-8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.. Gallery guides are available to provide information and to answer questions during the exhibit on Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. Admission and parking are free to the public.

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