TRADE BLANKETS: Often called “Pendletons??? after the well-known woolen mill, trade blankets were made by non-Indian manufacturers for commercial exchange with native peoples. The exhibit runs through February 20.
Photo courtesy of Gilcrease Museum
Wrapped in Tradition: The Chihuly Collection of American Indian Trade Blankets opened December 11 at the Gilcrease Museum and runs through February 20.
Dale Chihuly is widely recognized as one of the most influential artists of the 21st century. For over three decades, his work has continued to engage and inspire, maintaining a luminescence and vitality unmatched by any artist of the modern world.
The exhibition contains 82 of some of the most striking examples of Native American trade blankets from Chihuly’s extensive private collection. Often called “Pendletons” after the well-known woolen mill, trade blankets were made by non-Indian manufacturers for commercial exchange with native peoples. Trade blankets were made in hundreds of colors and designs, inspired by traditional Native American themes and imagery.
The exhibition explores these themes and their influence on Chihuly’s work, notably through a selection of the artist’s “Pendleton-inspired” glass. Chihuly’s Blanket Cylinders are a celebration of light and color. Their innovative forms bring a stunning new dimension to the cross-cultural expression of trade blanket design.
Mill-produced blankets became an important medium of exchange over two centuries ago with the rise of the North American Fur Trade. Trade blankets were bartered to native peoples throughout North America. The early style, or Hudson’s Bay blanket, was one of the most prominent items of exchange between Europeans and the indigenous nations of the continent. Hudson’s Bay blankets were mostly white in color with a series of green, black, red, and yellow horizontal stripes. By the late 19th Century, however, intricate Native American designs began to be used. These complex images and motifs, arranged in brilliant colors, were essential features of what ultimately came to be known simply as the “Pendleton.”
For over a century, American Indian trade blankets continue to be important displays of native expression. They are used at tribal get-togethers, powwows, and private ceremonies. Trade blankets are often given as symbols of friendship and acceptance, and presented as gifts during important rites of passage. The American Indian trade blanket remains an important symbol of native heritage and identity. It has become a symbol of converging traditions, an enduring icon of an increasingly shared American experience.
Wrapped in Tradition: The Chihuly Collection of American Indian Trade Blankets is organized in conjunction with the Oregon Historical Society. Additional text courtesy of Stephen Dow Beckham, Pamplin Professor of History, Lewis and Clark College, and Marsha Matthews, Director of Artifact Collections and Exhibits, Oregon Historical Society.
Gilcrease Museum is home of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of fine art, artifacts and archives that tells the story of the Americas. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call (918) 596-2700, or visit the museum’s web site at www.gilcrease.org.