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The Art of Making and the Making of an Art Form: Indigenous Textiles of the American Southwest

Hadley Jensen
Bard Graduate Center / American Museum of Natural History Postdoctoral Fellow in Museum Anthropology

In this talk, Jensen introduces her Focus Project exhibition at Bard Graduate Center, which will be the first to showcase the American Museum of Natural History’s collection of indigenous textiles from the greater American Southwest. Navajo weaving will be the primary focus of the exhibition, but will be contextualized by examples of Hopi, Zuni, Chimayo, and Saltillo weavings to show regional variation in—and transmission of—motifs, materials, processes, and technologies. By exploring the various modes and contexts of intercultural influence, adaptation, and exchange in the region, this exhibit examines the trans-historical conditions for change in this particular media, and how it is intertwined with materials, objects, and social practices that articulate both cultural and regional identities. It also diverges from previous analytic strategies by focusing on indigenous aesthetics and ways of knowing. As a result, Jensen will emphasize weaving as a cultural practice, a mode of spiritual engagement, and a system of indigenous knowledge production and transmission, in addition to its significance as an “art” form with a particular economic and institutional history of non-Native collection, display, and publication.

Wednesday, September 11, 12:15 pm
38 West 86th Street, Seminar Room


Hadley Jensen’s research addresses the intersections between art, anthropology, and material culture. She is currently Bard Graduate Center/AMNH Postdoctoral Fellow in Museum Anthropology, a three-year appointment at Bard Graduate Center and in the Anthropology Division at the Richard Gilder Graduate School of the American Museum of Natural History. Her dissertation, Shaped by the Camera: Navajo Weavers and the Photography of Making in the American Southwest, 1880-1945, examines the visual documentation of Navajo weaving through various modes and media of representation. She believes in the close examination of objects as an integral part of learning about their material qualities and methods of production, and she is particularly interested in advancing interdisciplinary methodologies to better understand processes of making. In addition, she has hands-on experience learning indigenous weaving and natural dyeing practices (Navajo and Zapotec), which has strengthened and enlivened her work as an academic researcher, curator, and teacher.