family tradition, navajo
2006, oil, 50"h x 38"w
According to myth passed down through oral traditions of the Dine, as Navajos refer to themselves, one of the supernatural spirits, called Holy People, led them from another world beneath the earth, to their home in the Southwest. Spider Woman and Spider Man, Navajo Holy People, taught the Dine to make a loom from sunshine, rain, lightening and earth. Spider Woman taught them to weave. Originally, cotton was the predominant fiber used but after the introduction of sheep by the Spanish, wool became the material of choice. For centuries the Navajo weaving techniques remained virtually unchanged. The ancient form of artistic expression flourished for over two hundred years and continues as the pinnacle of American woven textiles.
From generation to generation and from a very young age, Navajo girls helped prepare the wool while watching their mothers create elegant and functional weavings. In this painting there are two pairs of beautiful hands, those of the grandmother whose hands have become too old for the loom, and those of the mother whose hands are now at work upon it. Grandmother's eyes are bright and her heart is gratified knowing her granddaughters will carry on the skills passed down by her daughter, and all the mothers before her.