Of Beauty and Sadness

A Wedge Weave Blanket

I visited the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, NM the other day.  I viewed the exhibit Horizons: Weaving Between the Lines with Dine Textiles.   This is a small and amazing exhibit of Navajo weavings from early 19th century up to present times.  The Navajos chose the weavings for the show and wrote the reason why it is so special.

I was drawn to a particular example mostly because of what was said about it.  The artist wrote about it in a very personal way and I want to share it here.    The weaving is a wedge weave blanket woven by Kevin Aspaas in 2022.

The Act of Weaving

This is what he wrote:

One of the first things I was taught about weavings is that they are an extension of your very own being.  The act of weaving and the interactions with the tools can provide healing.  Thoughts and emotions play an important part of any artistic expression.  I wove this piece during a very difficult time in my life,  and I think my grief made itself evident through the choice of the varying shades of blue.  Although it was a tough piece to complete, it brought me healing and comfort.  Looking back now, I realize this is what my ancesters went through with their own grief and in times of trouble. There is beauty in that sadness, but only if we sit with it and have that conversation.  – Kevin Aspaas (Dine) fiber artist and weaver

What he writes is beautiful and while his points seem obvious, seeing it written here impacts me strongly.  I’ve wondered many times why I invest so much energy in early Navajo blankets.  I’ve always felt like they show more than I can see, like I’m looking at a story and while I sense it, I can’t get my hands around of it.  With the physicality of weaving, it makes perfect sense that one would process their energy into them.  More so than painting, weaving involves a highly repetitious path that can capture not only the design, but also bind the emotional energy of its weaver.  As a bodyworker for the last 30 years, I am sensitive to how and where humans send their energy. I suspect that this is much of what I feel when I take in a Navajo blanket.

Of Beauty and Sadness

I’ve shared this blanket before and will share it again here.  This is the most soulful blanket that I have.  The depth of sadness emanating from it haunts me.   While it also holds the “light at the end of the tunnel” for me, it’s power comes from its grief.   We are born and then we die – what could be more grieving than this fact?

The darkness of this piece is somber.  The zig-zag movement suggests high energy – both in movement and compression.  However, the dark colors of the zig-zag subdue this energy, like everything is under water.  The meandering white bands are the “light at the end of the tunnel.”  They bring brightness to the blanket and interrupt the zig-zag movement.   The white, pointed darts along the sides seem tortuous, but they might be something positive, like the birth of another white, wavy band. The blanket is dreamlike and takes me to an altered state.


This blanket is hard to date, but is likely somewhere in the first half of the 19th century up to the 1860s.  The mid 19th century onward towards the 20th century was a particularly difficult time for the Navajo.  They were gathered up and sent away to the Military forts, especially Bosque Redondo, in the early 1860s.  Prior to this they were continually being confronted by other native tribes, the US military and the Spaniards that settled in the same lands.  There is no way to say if this blanket holds the pain of those times, as it’s just as likely that it could have held a very private grief by the weaver – a story that never got told, other than its being held by this blanket.  Or, I could be transferring of my own sadness onto this blanket.   Wherever the energy is coming from, it is felt, and not just by me.

Thank you for your time.  My move to the new space is going well. In case you have missed it, I’m now at 131 W. San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501. I’m open, for the most part, from Wednesday through Saturday 11 – 5.  This location is right around the corner from where I used to be at 28 Burro Alley.  A hop, skip and a jump away…

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