Antique Native American Art

Antique Native American art include objects of everyday use, are functional as well as aesthetic. The more valued antique Native American art objects were those used in rituals or symbolized a certain status. Unfortunately, today Native American artworks have become commodities or collection items in the hands of nonindigenous Americans and Europeans.

Some of the notable artworks of Native Americans

Antique basketry: The Native American basket is perhaps the oldest antique Native American art of Native American culture. Fragments of baskets have been found at some ancient sites. As they were woven from organic materials, few antique Native American baskets have survived.   

These baskets, as with any other basket, served a utilitarian purpose, but for the Native Americans they were also an expression of art and Tribal identity. At the turn of the century, Native American Indian baskets began to be woven for trade as well as for tribal ceremony. Today, there are few practicing Indian basket weavers with skills to make baskets as fine as the antique ones. In the Southwest, some of the most elegant were made by the Apache and Pima woven in tray or olla shapes using native plant material for the frame and weave.

Antique plains beadwork:  Beadwork is common in all Native American culture, but it never evolved as an outstanding antique Native American art form as it did in the Plains of Native America. For centuries, these beads were made from native materials but the painstaking process made beads scarce. Glass beads from France soon replaced the original beads in nearly every functional item of the Plains culture. Sewn with sinew thread on hand-tanned hides, elaborate and colorful designs emerged. Since hides were organic matter, few samples prior to the 1930’s survive making the existing pieces rare indeed. Early designs in Plains beadwork were usually simple stripes and geometrics, the colors and designs of which were prescribed by ceremonial stricture. After the 1870s, the designs became more elaborate, although the old ceremonial designs were still created. Beadwork was considered a matter of pride for the individual artist. Women made all the beadwork for their families.

Antique Navajo textiles: Textiles have been produced by Native Americans, especially Navajo Indians, for over two thousand years for personal use and trading. Navajo blankets were renowned as antique Native American art throughout North America for their beautiful and functional blankets. They were soft and warm because of the natural lanolin in the wool, and water resistant as well. Early Navajo weaving designs began to be influenced by many cultures in the Southwest at the time. The beautiful hand woven Navajo Serapes show significant Mexican and Spanish influence. At the turn of the century, cheaper manufactured wool blankets caused demand for Navajo blankets to fall. Since the demand for decorative rugs was much more, the Navajo blanket became the artistic Navajo rug, used as wall hangings and floor coverings. Navajo rugs of as good quality are still woven on the same type of looms. The weaving tradition and the antique Native American art form still survive.

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