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The National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York celebrates its 20th anniversary with the opening of “Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family” Thursday, Nov. 13, located in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in Lower Manhattan.
“Glittering World” is the museum’s first exhibition to explore the intersection of art and commerce through Navajo jewelry making and features more than 300 examples of contemporary jewelry made by members of the Yazzie family of Gallup, N.M. The exhibition shows how the family’s art flows from their Southwest environs and strong connection to their Navajo culture. With pieces from the museum’s collection, the exhibition places Navajo jewelry making within its historical context of art and commerce, illustrates its development as a form of cultural expression and explores the meanings behind its symbolism. A series of public and educational programs will complement the exhibition’s themes and add new meaning to common knowledge about Native jewelry and the traditions and economic impact surrounding it.
“This exhibition tells a story of both the artisans and the craftsmanship, exploring the natural materials, cultural influences and surroundings that inspire the Yazzie family,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “But ‘Glittering World’ does not stop there. The exhibition goes beyond Native art to tell the story of the interplay between Navajo culture and commerce, which is in keeping with the museum’s mission to evolve the way visitors see and experience the long saga and continuing life of Native peoples.”
The Yazzie family is one of the most celebrated jewelry-making families in the Native art world. The silver, gold and stone inlay work of Yazzie brothers Lee and Raymond, which is featured throughout the exhibition, has won every major award for artisanship. Mary Marie Yazzie, whose work is also featured, has dedicated much of her craft to fine bead- and stonework.
“Glittering World” has been in development for more than two years and is guest curated by Lois Sherr Dubin, assisted by Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo), associate curator.
“I’m honored to tell the story of Navajo jewelry through the lens of the gifted Yazzie family and so pleased to do so in partnership with the National Museum of the American Indian,” said Dubin. “These one-of-a-kind pieces, which provide critical economic support for Navajo families like the Yazzies, are a testament to American Indian craftsmanship, and this museum is the perfect place to showcase the work.”
The jewelry featured throughout “Glittering World” is inspired by the landscapes of the southwestern United States and incorporates traditional materials that reflect Navajo cultural values such as turquoise, silver and coral. Many of the materials have both spiritual and economic value for Navajo peoples and are sacred stones in Navajo beliefs.
“Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family” opens to the public Nov. 13 and runs through Jan. 10, 2016, and is located at One Bowling Green in New York City, across from Battery Park. The museum is free and open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Thursdays until 8 p.m. Closed Dec. 25. Call (212) 514-3700 for general information and (212) 514-3888 for a recording about the museum’s public programs. By subway, the museum may be reached by the 1 to South Ferry, the 4 or 5 to Bowling Green or the R or W to Whitehall Street. The museum’s website is www.AmericanIndian.si.edu. For additional information, go to http://heritageforward.com
Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family, tells the remarkable story of Navajo jewelry—from its ancient origins to the present—through the work of the gifted Yazzie family of Gallup, N.M. as well as their ancestors, masters, peers and protégés. Authored by Dubin; preface by Manuelito Wheeler (Navajo); On-sale date: 11/18/14. Price: $50/Pages: 272. ISBN: 978-1-58834-477-9. Smithsonian Books. Available in bookstores, online retailers, including www.SmithsonianStore.com, or by phone at 1-800-242-6624.