A peek into our collections, one object at a time

Cosmic Beadwork

March 22, 2023
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beads sewn on a black cloth with stars and the Milky Way
“Milky Way, Starry Night # 2” by Margaret Nazon, Gwich’in Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories, Canada, 2021. Art by Margaret Nazon, photo by Smithsonian.

Gwich’in artist Margaret Nazon grew up looking at stars in Canada’s Northwest Territories. She did not incorporate her childhood passion for astronomy in her art until she was in her 60s, after seeing images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Swirling galaxies are not traditional subjects in Gwich’in beadwork, so Nazon developed her own signature style.

The artwork photographed above was produced by Nazon for the “Lights Out: Recovering Our Night Sky” exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and it will later join the museum’s collection.

“Lights Out” focuses on how the night sky—and its disappearance due to light pollution—affects all life on Earth, from natural ecosystems to human cultures. The exhibition will remain on view through December 2025.

Check out the “Lights Out” episode from Sidedoor, a podcast from the Smithsonian.