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Gallery Blanket Show and Sale

By Medicine Man Gallery on

View, purchase rare Navajo blankets

Gallery displays world-class works through May 20

by David Sanders

Published online courtesy Arizona Daily Star, May 12, 2011


Michigan resident Anthony Hsu looks over some of the Navajo chief blankets that were made between 1850 and 1870.  About 30 rare blankets are on display at the Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery in "Masterpieces of the Loom," a show that continues through May 20.

An east-side gallery is showing about 30 rare Navajo blankets, most of which are for sale.

But you better bring plenty of spending money if you want to take one home.  The blankets range in price from $5,000 to more than $100,000 each.

There's no cost to admire the artistry and craftsmanship on display in "Masterpieces of the Loom: Navajo Blankets 1860-1900."

These Navajo blankets are hand-woven from wool.

The show is up now and through May 20 at the Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery, 7000 E. Tanque Verde Road.  The gallery's first retrospective of rare Navajo blankets boats examples of weaving from classic through "transitionals," including chief blankets, serapes and Germantown weavings.

Transitionals were made in the 1890s during a period when the Navajo makers were transitioning from blanket to rugs, according to Kathleen Sublette, who owne the gallery with her husband, Dr. Mark Sublette.  The chief blankets were so-called because they were so highly prized and acquired by other tribes through trading, she added. "Navajos are clans people so they don't have chiefs.  But these blankets were often worn by leaders of other tribes."

Accompanying the exhibit is a select group of paintings by Ray Roberts, inspired y some of the blankets on display.

A painting by Ray Roberts, "Navajo Woman," is one of several works by the artist now on display at the gallery,

Mark Sublette decribed the blankets as "some of the best weavings of this type that you can see, whether it's in a museum or a gallery."

"For a gallery to have this kind of grouping of textiles at one shebang is a very, very rare thing.  I have never had this many world-class Navajo blankets at one time on display, and I have been doing this for more than 20 years."

The brightly colored blankets are displayed on mannequins, so the viewer can imagine how they must have looked when worn.  "Most times that you see weavings shown, they show then as a flat, two-dimensional object," said Sublette.  "They put them on the wall, like a painting.  Well, the reality of these things is t hat they were made to be worn, and if you don't show them that way, you don't really understand what the artist was trying to portray with that textile."

"So by making mannequins that can be hung on the wall, which I devised, you can actually get the sensibilities of what the people looked like and felt like wearing these great objects," he added.

Mark Sublette adjusts a rare Navajo poncho at his east-side gallery.

Michigan visitor Anthony Hsu, who was in town for a conference, described the blankets as "amazing."  "It's interesting to see all of the different styles that they made.  I've never seen blankets like these in other parts of the country before, so it's a good educational experience."

The blankets for sale range in price from $5,000 to more than $100,000 each.

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