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Grand and beautiful Native basketry exhibit reflects Perelmans’ generosity

by | | Feb 22, 2018

Perelman baskets exhibit

A new exhibition at the Eiteljorg showcases the work of some of the most admired Native American basketmakers while celebrating two of the museum’s most generous supporters: Mel and Joan Perelman.

The Perelmans recently gifted to the museum their collection of 147 baskets, cradles and bags spanning much of North America, with a particular focus on the Southwest and Far West regions. This gift is meaningful, as it fills gaps in the museum’s existing collections. A selection of objects will be featured in a special exhibit, Interwoven: Native American Basketry from the Mel and Joan Perelman Collection, in the Paul Gallery from April 14 to Aug. 5.

“The Eiteljorg Museum has benefitted profoundly from the generosity of Mel and Joan Perelman over the past two decades,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “Their exquisite judgment in collecting fine art of Native America and the West is reflected in this outstanding collection, representing many cultures, that the public will be fascinated to see. In light of the extraordinary quality of this basket collection in particular, it’s appropriate that we share it with the public.”

These baskets are symbolic of the resiliency of Native peoples and are primarily the works of women, including Louisa Keyser (Washoe), Lena Dick (Washoe), Elizabeth Juan (Tohono O’odham), Lucy Telles (Paiute), Magdelena Augustine (Chemehuevi) and others, some whose names were not recorded. The baskets contain the love, care, and knowledge passed down through multiple generations that contributed to the survival of many Native communities despite dramatic and traumatic transitions of the late 19th through early 20th centuries.

Crucial to the continuation of these arts is the inter-generational transmitting of knowledge about what materials work best for specific purposes, where to gather materials and the proper care and harvesting of materials; while also leaving room for innovation and personal taste in form, designs, and incorporating new materials. All are woven into each item. While many of the baskets have utilitarian roots, they also represent adaptation to a market economy. Some were made specifically for sale, such as the Washoe degikup, a globular basket form, developed in the 1890s. Other baskets range from the grand — an Apache olla basket measuring 26 inches tall and 24 inches in diameter — to an incredibly intricate and diminutive Makah basket.

While the collection is mainly of baskets, it also encompasses Lower Klamath River basketry hats and other forms of woven items such as a Hoopa cradle and Nez Perce twined bag. The Perelmans also collected the work of living artists from numerous communities who continue the traditions and innovations seen in these earlier works.

Love, care, and knowledge: These words not only apply to the many Native artists and their creations within the collection, but also to the Perelmans themselves. The Perelmans are among the museum’s most active supporters, and Mel serves on the board of directors. A previous Eiteljorg show, Spirited Connoisseurs in 2004, featured Western paintings and Native pottery, baskets and Katsina figures the Perelmans collected. The museum’s expansion wing, which was built in 2005 and doubled the size of the building, is named for them.

To honor Mel and Joan Perelman for their support of Native fine arts and the museum, the Eiteljorg will host a special gala celebration Thursday, June 21. If you would like to join us in recognizing the Perelmans’ generosity, please visit www.eiteljorg.org or email mwhistler@eiteljorg.com for information about reservations.


SPECIAL EXHIBIT
Interwoven: Native American Basketry from the Mel and Joan Perelman Collection
Gerald and Dorit Paul Gallery, Eiteljorg Museum
April 14–August 5

Gala celebration, 6 p.m. Thursday, June 21, presented by Oxford Financial Group, LTD.
Co-chairs of the gala are John and Sarah Lechleiter.


Image Caption: 

(From left to right) Feather and yarn Tubatulabal basket, ca. 1905; Apache olla, 1918; feather basket by Rose Anderson (Pomo); two quilled birch bark containers by Bernard Parley (Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa), 1995; beaded Pomo basket, ca. 1870.
Gift of Mel and Joan Perelman

 

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Storyteller magazine.

 


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