By Jean-Paul Valette (PhDEcon'62) and Rebecca Valette (PhDFren'63)
(Schiffer, 432 pages; 2017)
After 40 years of research, Jean-Paul Valette and Rebecca Valette published the book Navajo Weavings with Ceremonial Themes: A Historical Overview of a Secular Art Form. Featuring more than 500 photos and maps, the book tells the comprehensive, research-based history of Navajo weavings with imagery inspired by tribal sacred practices. In spite of their iconography, they never served a ceremonial function. They were created by Navajo women at the instigation of Anglo traders, for sale to wealthy collectors willing to pay premium prices for their perceived spiritual symbolism. This book describes the historical and artistic development of the genre from its controversial emergence around 1900, to the 1920-1940 period of intense creativity, and concluding with the contemporary search for innovative patterns. Never-before-published weavings, detailed annotations, and an extensive bibliography make this an invaluable reference for scholars and collectors, and a fascinating exploration for all who are interested in the Southwest and its native cultures.
Rebecca’s parents were introduced to Navajo rugs by their neighbor, famed archeologist Earl Morris (Psych1914; MA1916). “Their love of these beautiful weavings was passed on to me, and then also to my husband,” writes Rebecca. In the 1970s, the couple acquired a Navajo blanket and began investigating its history and origin.Over the next four decades, the couple assembled a collection of over one hundred ceremonial-themed textiles, published several articles in American Indian Art Magazine and curated two museum exhibits of Yeibichai weavings.