Native American Jewelry Art

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Totems to Turquoise: Native North American Jewelry Arts of the Northwest and Southwest.. KEYWORDS: native american jewelry art of the northwest art of the southwest navajo jewelry hopi jewelry zuni jewelry pueblo jewelry haida jewelry tlingit jewelry salish jewelry American Museum of Natural History exhibit

Native American jewelry for centuries has represented more than simply an
aesthetic ideal. It has carried meaning and reflected tribal culture. Pins in the form of clan animals. Bracelets shaped to reflect family totems. It’s a tradition that today’s Native American artists continue.

Art is integrated into indian culture. There is not a separation of art from
life.

Jewelry from the Southwest – which includes Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Pueblo – uses
more color, and the lines tend toward the angular.

For Northwest tribes, such as the Haida, Tlingit and Salish, jewelry is more like sculpture: Pieces feature images carved or hammered into metals with little or no additional color and use more fluid and curved lines.

But there is commonality as well. In both regions, artisans used jewelry to
reflect their view of the world around them. The animals in the designs
reflected their clan or family totems, or creatures from their mythologies. Some of
the material, such as California abalone shell, was used in both regions.

Traditional pieces overlap with the work being done by contemporary Native American artists, showing how crafts people today hold on to the artistic traditions while trying to be innovative as well. A belt may be in traditional concho form, but the metalwork might have modern astrological imagery, for example. A 900 year old necklace might have similar colors and intricate cuts which are portrayed in a modern piece set in a contemporary style.

It’s all about orienting people. It corresponds with a system that places you in
the world.