Grass Roots: Native American Basketry of the West

15 September 2016–18 June 2018

Exhibition Overview

Rattlesnake Basket

For centuries Native Americans have cultivated and harvested various native plants and roots, from the arid deserts of the Southwest to the wooded forests of the Northwest, weaving them into magnificent baskets. The complex mastering of the art of basket weaving was primarily the responsibility of women. In addition to great technical skill and artistic vision, it required weavers to develop an intimate knowledge of their environment, botanical expertise, and an understanding of cultural traditions. Historically baskets pervaded every aspect of Native life from collecting and processing food to supporting sacred practices and community events. Although born of necessity, basketry of the West embodies diverse and distinct cultural and aesthetic qualities well beyond their functional purposes.

This exhibition presents the elegance and simplicity of centuries-old utilitarian forms alongside the eye-dazzling intricate designs created by master weavers of the early twentieth century. This installation of over 150 baskets from the museum’s permanent collection connects the viewer with the immense aesthetic and diverse cultural heritage that is unique to Native American basketry of the West.

This exhibition is funded by Mary Cone.

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