Though enamored with the aesthetics, Jill Chancey, the curator at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel, Miss., said that what's most interesting about American Indian baskets is the hands that made them.
An exhibition of baskets from Ms. Chancey's museum opens today at the Morris Museum of Art, 1 10th. St.
The show, 65 baskets from a variety of tribes and regions, represents the art of basket weaving and offers anthropological hints as to the lives and lifestyles of the people who made them.
"A blanket made of wool is always made of wool," Ms. Chancey said. "A clay pot is a clay pot. But a basket will have a material, weave and dye that (are) unique to the place it came from. Traditional basketry is tied to the land, just like Native American culture. It's really expressive of a unique tribal identity."
Ms. Chancey said that material and purpose play into the look and the significance of a basket. For instance, a fish basket from the Pacific Northwest will be far different from a ceremonial basket from the Southeast. She said those differences in style and substance make baskets artistic and cultural artifacts.
"They are used for cooking, carrying babies, funerals - every aspect of everyday life," she said. "But I think the main thing is that basketry is a living tradition and form of artistry as valid as any other. It is functional, but it is also as legitimate an art form as an oil painting."
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: By Native Hands: Native American Baskets from the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art
WHERE: Morris Museum of Art, 1 10th St.
WHEN: Today through Aug. 13; museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
COST: $5 general; $3 senior citizens, students and military. Children under 6 free with an adult. Admission is free on Sunday. Call (706) 724-7501.