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Pictorial weavings originated in the mid-nineteenth century. Traditionally Navajo weavings have been characterized by non-representational geometric form. Pictorials deviate from earlier styles by incorporating semi-realistic depictions of everyday scenes and objects. The new and dramatic development represented a period of physical and social change.
The change responded creatively to changes in their environment, whole-heartedly embracing and introducing into their work new and unfamiliar images and materials. As new forms of transportation have come to the reservation, depictions of trains, trucks and cars were incorporated into weaving designs. As new commercial goods became available, first through trading posts, their imagery have undergone further change. The color palette shifted as more commercial yarns became available. As tourism developed, weavers were quick to adopt as part of their visual vocabulary popular icons of the travel and tourism industry. More recent pictorial weavings were often characterized by an ironic, self-reflexive element, highly detailed and often whimsical representation of reservation trading posts and fairs, using postcard-like scenes of reservation life.
Jennifer McLerran, Curator
Kennedy Museum of Art