Thursday, September 29, 2011

“Birds and Beasts in Beads”

By Eva Fognell, Curator of the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art

On the weekend of September 17 through 19, Colgate University hosted an Iroquois beadwork conference in conjunction with their exhibition Birds and Beasts in Beads.

Samantha Clink, my student intern extraordinaire when she is not hard at work at SUNY Oneonta, joined me for a day of beads, bags and birds.

First we went upstairs to the Longyear Museum of Anthropology, to take a look at the exhibit.

There was lots of beautiful beadwork in the exhibit. The low light levels in the space (to preserve the textiles) makes the photographs a bit dark.

We enjoyed an interesting program with presentations by bead workers, scholars and collectors all day long.

The first talk of the day was by Karen Ann Hoffman from the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Her talk was titled “Written in Beads: Iroquois Stories in Raised Beadwork.” She is a teacher as well as beadworker. The stories that she told, beaded into her work, were so fascinating.

On a light blue bag she beaded a turtle. A pearl in the corner is Sky Woman and Turtle is the land - these are part of the Iroquois Creation story. Here is Karen Ann holding her “Fall Map”, in her Council Map series:

The story she tells in this map is about 4 brothers and their dog named Four Eyes that hunts and kills a bear in the sky world. They butcher the bear and he bleeds, blood falls from the sky and that is why maple leafs turn red in the fall. Later the brothers have a great feast of bear meat and the fat sizzles down. That is why we have snow in late fall. The hunters’ slept the winter away and in early spring the bear constitute himself and he was off again for a new year. That is how the world continues.

Next up was Dolly Printup Winden, Tuscarora, a contemporary bead worker. Here she is talking about the familiy tradition. The photo in the background is of her grandmother selling beadwork:

There were also bead-workers there selling their amazing creations as well as a beadwork competition. Look at these photos of some of the amazing creations:

I also learned a lot about dating and styles of beadwork - information that will come in handy when working with our collection.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the summary and photos of the exhibits and presentations. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to see that much when it was not possible to attend. As usual, Dolores Elliott has developed a beautiful and informative display for others to discuss and use for discussion and mutual sharing of knowledge!

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