Autry National Center

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Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork

GENERAL INFO / BACKGROUND

Location/Dates:

The Autry in Griffith Park: Norman F. Sprague, Jr. Gallery
March 15, 2014–April 26, 2015

"A fascinating show … astonishingly beautiful [objects] … a story of survival, of a will to endure in the face of crushing opposition." 

Los Angeles Times

Art and spirituality converge with trade and commerce in Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork, a groundbreaking exhibition of more than 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. 

Floral Journey presents moccasins, bags, dresses, hats, jackets, and other exquisitely beaded and quilled items selected from multiple private collections and fifteen cultural institutions, including the Autry's Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection. Many of the objects will be displayed to the public for the first time.

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Related Publication 

Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork
(Autry National Center / University of Washington Press)
By Lois Sherr Dubin 

This companion publication to the exhibition celebrates the beauty and power of Native North American floral art. This beautifully illustrated book 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. Copies of the book are available for purchase in the Autry Store in both hardcover ($65) and paperback ($48) editions.

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.

“We hope people see that this extraordinarily beautiful body of art contains many layers of information. You can look at the work and appreciate it strictly by itself as glorious imagery, but when you know something about the meaning behind the designs, it’s even more terrific,” said guest curator Lois Sherr Dubin. “These are not inert, static objects; they pulsate with life because every piece has a story.”

Sacred Foundations of Floral Imagery

The exhibition begins with the introduction of basic sacred and secular concepts that visitors can apply throughout the gallery. For Native North Americans, flowers are seen as part of a belief system in which everything has a place and an inherent spirituality. The objects included in this introductory section embody Native belief systems and demonstrate the evolution of adornment—and its transformation into floral imagery—from ancient to contemporary times.

Key objects in this section include a James Bay Cree beaded hood that draws visitors into the gallery and a precontact Mississippian shell gorget that embodies many sacred concepts.

History and Art as Commodity

Visitors will learn about the early impact of European contact, including the consequences of settlers’ introduction of trade goods such as steel needles, trade cloth, and glass beads. The exhibition also emphasizes the emergence of “art as commodity,” revealing later changes in floral beadwork trends as Native artists began making items for tourists as a source of income at popular destinations such as Niagara Falls.

Left to right: Moccasins, Arapaho/Shoshone, 1947. Leather, glass beads. Donated from the collection of D. L. and Shirley K. Hall. Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, Autry National Center; 95.180.56.1–.2. Canadian Plains Cree gauntlets, 1900. Native tanned hide, commercial leather, glass beads. Loan courtesy of Lora A. and Robert U. Sandroni. Ojibwa vest, 1885. Velvet, cloth, ribbon, glass beads, brass buttons. Gift of Miss Donna Held. Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, Autry National Center; 1911.G.1.

Native Expressions

The Native Expressions section takes visitors deeper into regional, tribal, and personal stories. It is organized into five cultural/geographic areas where floral beadwork flourished, spanning from the Eastern Woodlands to the Columbia River Plateau.

Connecting many of these stories is the Moccasin Trail, a path of more than seventy pairs of floral-adorned moccasins from tribes across North America, culminating in a striking contemporary pair of quilled stiletto boots by Jamie Okuma (Luiseño, Shoshone). The trail leads the visitors into the gallery, where they will see significant objects such as Emma, a fully beaded Iroquois outfit made by Niio Perkins (Akwesasne Mohawk); a sled dog blanket; and moose-hide gauntlet gloves.

Contemporary Beadwork

In this final section, interactive displays link the stories of the past to the present through interviews with contemporary beadwork artists. One video interview highlights the fascinating story of Cherokee artist Martha Berry, who singlehandedly revived the Cherokee beadwork tradition by using museum collections to teach herself techniques that had been lost for more than a century.

250 Unique Objects

Floral Journey brings together objects from the Autry National Center’s Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection with works on loan from other institutions, including the American Museum of Natural History, Denver Art Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Fenimore Art Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, Royal Ontario Museum, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and several private collections.

Related Publication and Programs

Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork
(Autry National Center / University of Washington Press)
By Lois Sherr Dubin

This companion publication to the exhibition celebrates the beauty and power of Native North American floral art. This beautifully illustrated book 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. Copies of the book are available for purchase in the Autry Store in both hardcover and paperback editions.

A wide range of related programs is planned throughout the exhibition run. Highlights include a seminar with curator Lois Sherr Dubin and other leading scholars; Change and Continuity: The Impact of Intertribal Trade on Material Culture, a discussion featuring historical archaeology professor Stephen Silliman and history professor Natale Zappia; and a series of Community Beadwork Programs with artist Tiffany Jackson (Cocopah/ Rosebud Sioux/Quechan/Paiute/Laguna Pueblo). Jackson will guide participants through the basic beadwork process to create a community beadwork project for display in the museum.


Related Press

'Floral Journey' at Autry shows beadwork with deep meaning (Los Angeles Times)

A Fruitful Exchange (The Magazine Antiques)


THIS EXHIBITION IS SPONSORED BY:

  • The E. L. and Ruth B. Shannon Family  Foundation

With additional support from:

  • Henry Luce Foundation
  • Paloheimo Foundation

A special thank-you to:

  • Estate of Anna J. Moore
  • The Reed Foundation
  • Lora A. and Robert U. Sandroni

Related Programs

UPCOMING:

Community Beadwork Drop-in Workshop

Saturday, February 7 2015, 1:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 11 2015, 1:00 p.m.


PAST:

Quarterly Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Saturday, June 14, 2014, 1:00 p.m.


Preview of Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork

Saturday, December 14 2013, 1:00 p.m.


Floral Journey First-Look Friday (Members Only)

Friday, Mar 14, 2014, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.


Floral Journey Exhibition Preview and Opening Reception (Benefactor Members Only)

Friday, Mar 14, 2014, 6:00 p.m.


Jesse Monongye Trunk Show

Saturday, March 15, 11:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.


Equality or Exceptionalism? Seeking Justice for Native Nations

Saturday, Mar 15, 2014, 5:00 p.m.


Honoring Natives in Entertainment Media Night

Saturday, Mar 22, 2014, 5:00 p.m.


Celebrate American Girl ® and Kaya: An Afternoon of Native American Culture and Art at the Autry

Sunday, March 23, 2014, 1:00-4:00 p.m.


Floral Journey: Morning at the Museum

Saturday, Apr 5, 2014, 9:00 a.m.


Floral Journey Seminar

Saturday, April 5, 2014, 11:00 a.m.


American Indian Games

Sunday, December 7, 2014, 1:00–4:00 p.m.


Navajo Rug Auction Member Preview Sale

Saturday, Apr 19, 2014, 9:00 a.m.


Navajo Rug Auction

Saturday, April 19, 2014, 10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.


Change and Continuity: The Impact of Intertribal Trade on Material Culture

Saturday, May 17, 2014, 2:00 p.m.


American Indian Arts Marketplace 2014

Saturday and Sunday, November 8–9, 2014, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.


Community Beadwork Drop-in Workshop

Saturday, November 8 2014, 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 9 2014, 1:00 p.m.


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