To tell the story of the Native American cultures of the southwest through their arts is a daunting task. Yet, in the Millicent Rogers Museum collection is a representative body of work from the prehistoric to the present that broadly encompasses the rich and diverse heritages of Native American cultures in the region.
The items in the museum's collection include materials from the various tribal entities in New Mexico including the Navajos, Zunis, Pueblos, and Apaches. Because Northern New Mexico, and particularly Taos, were centers of trade from throughout the west, the museum also has a remarkable collection of Plains Indian material, Mexican Indian art, and representative pieces from other Western Native American cultures.
The examples of Native American textiles, pottery, baskets, Katsinas and jewelry on display illustrate the use and the life of the objects.
Cow Katsina--19th century
The outside world knew fairly little about what katsinas were until the publication by Frank Waters of Taos about the lore, language and traditions of the Hopi people. Still later, the collection of katsinas assembled by the late Arizona Senator and sometime Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater brought these images into popular culture. This example, one of the oldest in the museum's collection, is fully articulated with each element hand carved and then painted by the maker.
Navajo Eye-dazzler Weaving--late 19th or early 20th centuries
For centuries, there has been a widespread cross-pollination among the Native American, Hispanic and Anglo artists and traders in the region. There is perhaps no better example of these cultural crossovers than this Navajo weaving. Fifty years before this was made, the Navajos were producing simple but elegant horizontally banded weavings. Influences from Hispanic weavers, particularly during the Navajos enforced exile at Bosque Redondo, led to the introduction of these geometric patterns. Finally, the importation into the southwestern of aniline dyed Germantown milled yarns by traders meant that Navajo weavers were able to produce brighter and brighter weavings. The end result was this piece that while Navajo produced, includes elements from Hispanic and Anglo influences as well.
Jicarilla Apache Basket--early 20th century
This basket was donated to the museum by the family of famed Pueblo pottery Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso pueblo. The family story, which is supported by numerous images also in the museum collection, is that the basket was traded by an Apache to Maria for one of her famed pots. The idea of trading arts was, and still is, an important part of Native American life in the region.
"Tripod" Bulto, untitled, with 2 faces.
Patrocino Barela, ca. 1950. Taos, NM. H: 41.9 cm, W 50 cm.
Patrocino was one of Taos' most important artist of the 20th century. As a wood sculptor, he was unique in his art, which was predominately religious but outside the "Santero tradition" of Northern New Mexico.
Black cross with straw inlay of smaller crosses; a vertical straw stripe on each arm and 4 horizontal stripes on long pieces.
Felix was awarded Master's Award for lifetime achievement by Spanish Colonial Arts Society in 2007. Artist also creates painted bultos.
Felix A. Lopez , Espanola, NM. ca. 1980. H: 60.9 cm, W: 40.9 cm.
Straw appliqué and straw inlay are described as "poor man's gold." It is a process where pieces of wheat straw were split and scraped to bring out their luster. A home-made glue consisting of pine sap was used as a gesso to treat the wood and to glue the straw to the wood.
Tin cross with old wallpaper, glass.
Angelina Delgado Martinez, ca. 1980. W 31.7 cm, H: 38 cm.
Hispanic tinwork evolved in the Southwest after 1846 when tin became readily available as a recycled material. Between 1860 and 1890, the need for tin frames, sconces, and boxes grew.