Vintage Navajo Weaving: Tree of Life, 61″ x 96″


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Tree of Life

Tree of Life Vintage Navajo Weaving with Birds and Baskets. Size 61″ x 96″

History of Pictorials

A Pictorial rug portrays a bit of Navajo reality; a woven journal of the features of a weaver’s daily life. Many Pictorials are landscapes with a hogan, a corral and pickup truck, a woman in a long skirt. Sheep, cattle, and horses are often shown, too. The landscapes usually includes rock formations, trees, ponds, and clouds. Railroad trains, panel trucks emblazoned with soft drink logos, and even aircraft also show up in pictorials. Pictorial rugs are woven in colors appropriate to the subject matter-blue skies, green junipers, black or white sheep. Borders, if any are usually dark. Many Pictorials are still woven without perspective or shading, but some weavers are producing surprisingly realistic pictures, considering the medium. Occasionally, a weaver will make a replica of a flag, or weave a moto such as “Home Sweet Home”. Though technically Pictorials, these are usually referred to as “specialty rugs.”

    Sometime I usually weave all day and herd sheep and help around the house and chopping wood……it seems like every time you look up there is a jet plane.” — Eli Van Winkle, Nazlini, Arizona

History of Navajo Weavings

There is an ageless beauty to Navajo weaving. Navajo weavings are many things to people. Above all else, Navajo weavings are masterworks, regardless of whose criteria of art is used to judge them. They are evocative, timeless portraits which, like all good art, transcend time and space. Navajo weaving has captured the imagination of many not only because they are beautiful, well-woven textiles but also because they so accurately mirror the social and economic history of Navajo people. Succinctly, Navajo women wove their life experiences into the pieces.

Navajo people tell us they learned to weave from Spider Woman and that the first loom was of sky and earth cords, with weaving tools of sunlight, lightning, white shell, and crystal. Anthropologists speculate Navajos learned to weave from Pueblo people by 1650. There is little doubt Pueblo weaving was already influenced by the Spanish by the time they shared their weaving skills with Navajo people. Spanish influence includes the substitution of wool for cotton, the introduction of indigo (blue) dye, and simple stripe patterning. Besides the “manta” (a wider-than-long wearing blanket), Navajo weavers also made a tunic-like dress, belts, garters, hair ties, men’s shirts, breechcloths, and a “serape-style” wearing blanket.