Autry To Present Groundbreaking Exhibition Of Native Beadwork

Pipe bag, Potawatomi, 1860s, skin, yarn, thread, glass beads. Gift of Vera Keppler. Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, Autry National Center.

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. —  Art and spirituality converge with trade and commerce in “Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork,” a groundbreaking exhibition opening at the Autry National Center of the American West March 15. Through 250 unique objects and personal stories, the exhibition is the first of its kind to explore how beaded floral designs became a remarkable art form as well as a means of economic and cultural survival for the Native North American people.

On view through April 26, 2015, “Floral Journey” presents moccasins, bags, dresses, hats, jackets and other exquisite beaded and quilled items selected from 15 cultural institutions, including the Autry’s Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, and multiple private collections. Many of the objects will be on public display for the first time.

Throughout the exhibition, Native voices are combined with scholarly research to reveal the layers of cultural meanings within floral imagery from precontact through the Twenty-First Century. Four main sections within the exhibition lead the visitor through the evolution of floral beadwork, beginning with basic sacred concepts that are found in the imagery.

From there, visitors learn about the history of European contact and its many impacts on beadwork as an art form. With this foundation, the Native Expressions section delves deeper into regional differences within floral imagery, and begins to tell personal stories. These stories continue into the final section of the exhibition, bringing the narrative into the present through interviews with contemporary beadwork artists.

A companion publication to the exhibition celebrates the beauty and power of Native North American floral art. Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork by Lois Sherr Dubin is published by the Autry National Center / University of Washington Press. It showcases exquisite materials relating to the story of how American Indian flower imagery, following European contact, became a major art form as well as a symbol of cultural and economic resilience.

The story begins with the earliest teachings of silk floral-embroidery techniques and designs to young Native women in Seventeenth Century Quebec missions and continues through today with dazzling contemporary beadwork from all regions. The book is available for purchase in the Autry Store in both hardcover ($65) and paperback ($40) editions.

The Autry National Center is at 4700 Western Heritage Way. For further information, www.theautry.org or 323-667-2000.

Vest, Eastern Sioux, 1870s, deerskin, moose skin, trade cloth, porcupine quills, commercial dye. The General Charles McC. Reeve Collection. Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, Autry National Center.

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