Philbrook Museum of Art

Tulsa, OK

800-324-7941 918-749-7941

Front of Museum, photo by John Hazeltine

Museum Gardens, photo by John Hazeltine


Woven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection


"Woven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection" is on display March 11-May 20, 2001 at The Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The tapestry of Native American cultures has been woven into their remarkable Basketry for centuries. This landmark exhibition explores the cultural and geographic diversity among Native Americans with over 250 baskets selected from Philbrook's world-renowned Clark Field Collection. These baskets, remarkable for their quality and breadth, honor tribal groups from the United States, Canada and northern Mexico, and weave together the inter-relationship between the artists and the collector, Clark Field.

This special exhibition, and the companion catalogue, is the culmination of four years of concentration on Philbrook's encyclopedic collection of baskets created from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s. Spectacular examples of this fascinating craft include the national treasure Degikup (1918) by Washoe artist Louisa Keyser (Dat So La Lee) and an artistically superior Pomo feather basket. (left: Louisa Keyser (Dat So La Lee), Degikup basket, 1917-1918, willow, bracken fern, redbud, 9 3/4 x 14 1/2 inches, 1942.19.1909)

Native American basket weavers have long transformed grasses, roots, ferns, and bark into works of art unsurpassed for their aesthetic appeal. Exceptional baskets are handsomely displayed and range in size from nine-sixteenths of an inch in diameter (which will be viewed under a magnifying glass) to over five feet in height. Masterpieces from ninety-two tribal groups are represented.

By the close of the nineteenth century, museums and collectors were scrambling to acquire authentic Native American baskets from what was thought to be a "vanishing culture." Clark Field, a Tulsa businessman, was competing against this in his own quest to acquire baskets "made by all the basket making tribes." What started as a hobby in the mid-1930s became an obsession resulting in a collection of over 1,070 baskets.

Clark Field estimated having traveled more than one hundred twenty-five thousand miles collecting baskets from a number of tribal groups covering a broad range of techniques, and materials. As Field stated, "To the novice there is the obvious difference in shape, color and texture of Indian baskets. To the collector there is the hint of the whole pattern of life of the Indians who produced the basket."

Clark Field's journey from Tulsa to New Mexico and California, through the deserts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah, and north to the damp Northwest Coast and Alaska is traced in his pursuit of baskets featuring excellent craftsmanship and magnificent beauty. Beginning with the first basket Field collected in 1915, a Jicarilla Apache hamper, examples from eight regions are on display: the Southwest, Southeast, the Intermontane West (including the Great Basin and Plateau), California, Northwest Coast, Arctic and Subarctic, Plains and Prairie, and Eastern Woodlands (including the Northeast and Great Lakes). Each region focuses on the different techniques and materials used in relation to the culture and environment of the native peoples living there. This allows an opportunity to compare and contrast baskets from the eight regions and witness the vast diversity among America's native peoples. (left: Minnie Lacy, Yavapai, Tray, c. 1900, martynia, willow, 14 inches diameter, 1950.17.1)

To tell these stories more clearly, historic photographs and two textiles are included, a Chilkat blanket in the Northwest Coast section, and a Navajo Third Phase Chief-style blanket in the Southwest section. The story of Clark Field, the collector, will also unfold from region to region. In the Southwest region, learn about one of Clark Field's daughters, Dorothy, the founder of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, and the influence she and her father had on each other. From the Intermontane West comes one of the most famous baskets collected, the Degikup by Washoe artist, Louisa Keyser (Dat So La Lee) woven in 1918. Although this basket was marketed as a ceremonial basket, in reality it was made purely as art, and the form and design distinguish Keyser as a great artist.

On an early trip through the Southwest, Field acquired baskets at the Gallup Inter-tribal Ceremonials in New Mexico. While visiting R.B. Cregar in Palm Springs, California, Field purchased several baskets. In Death Valley he acquired an exquisite Panamint-Shoshone basket. Other trips took him north through the Great Basin, Plateau, and Northwest Coast. Frank G. Speck, an anthropologist and collector at the University of Pennsylvania, assisted Field in the purchase of a number of baskets from the Eastern Woodlands, the Arctic and Subarctic, and the Southeast. Several Cherokee, Choctaw, Chitimacha and Coushatta baskets from the Southeast were also collected during Field's travels throughout Oklahoma.



The Tulsa showing of Woven Worlds is presented by the Curator of Native American and Non-Western Art at The Philbrook Museum of Art, Shelby J. Tisdale, Ph.D. Dr. Tisdale brings a wealth of experience in native arts, including serving as Chief Curator of the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, NM, Assistant Curator at the Palm Springs Desert Museum, and as Collections Manager for the Indian Arts Research Center at the School of American Research in Santa Fe. Dr. Tisdale received a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, Tucson in Cultural Anthropology; a M.A. from the University of Washington, Seattle and completed her undergraduate work at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Guest Curator is Lydia L.Wyckoff, Ph.D. Dr. Wyckoff holds a Ph.D. from Yale University, a M.A. from Wesleyan University and a Lettres des Beaux Arts (M.F.A.) from the Universite de Lausanne. Dr. Wyckoff has held professional positions at the University of Tulsa, Fairfield University and The University of New Haven as Adjunct Professor. She has also served as Postdoctoral Fellow and Curator at Yale University among other teaching positions. Dr. Wyckoff retired as Curator of Native American and Non-Western Art at Philbrook in 1998.



Culminating four years of concentration on Philbrook's encyclopedic basket collection, a companion catalogue to the special exhibition has been published by The Philbrook Museum of Art. The publication is the first to document the complete Clark Field Basketry collection and provides an understanding of European-American and Native American inter-relations during the first half of the twentieth century. The 264-page publication includes nine essays, an introduction, 100 color plates, 26 black and white photographs, and a complete list of baskets for each cultural area.

The catalogue opens with a discussion and history of the Clark Field collection. "The Collector and the Collection," by Dr. Lydia Wyckoff, examines the interests and motives of Field and how the European-American values of the period influenced him. How these values in turn affected basket weavers, and their cultural networks is also explained. Using Field's extensive notes and letters, the manner in which each basket was acquired is reconstructed throughout the essays.

Born in Texas in 1882, Field came to Oklahoma as a newspaper reporter in 1900 and covered the opening to European-American settlement of Kiowa, Comanche and Apache lands in southwestern Oklahoma. As he witnessed the death threes of an earlier aboriginal life style, already severely altered by the reservation system, he sought to "collect authentic specimens of baskets made for actual use by all basket-making tribes." It is these extraordinary baskets that tell of the remarkable adaptability of native peoples and how Basketry enabled many of their traditions and values to continue.

Follow Clark Field's travels in an endeavor to amass a comprehensive Basketry collection representing weavers from eight major cultural areas in North America collected. A map of each cultural area is enhanced with a description of the area and its indigenous cultures, historical information (related to Basketry use and technology), and a discussion of basket weavers (including some interviews with weavers and/or their families).

A complete listing of each individual basket in the collection includes the tribal affiliation, weaver (when known), date made, basket form and measurements. Given the fact that the Clark Field collection has never been published in its entirety, and is of such high aesthetic quality, this list is of critical importance. The catalogue is an important research source for the academic community and general public, being particularly helpful to those researching individual basket weavers, production and stylistic change.

This catalogue will broaden understanding and appreciation of Native American cultures as represented through basketry traditions. Readers will gain an understanding of the diversity of both Basketry and Native American peoples in various regions, as well as the flexibility of these traditions in responding to change over time. Baskets reflect the social, cultural and environmental experience of the weaver and their community. Collectors influenced Basketry traditions and stimulated an interface between the Native American and European-American worlds. By connecting the past to the present, the catalogue challenges stereotypes and strives to broaden public understanding as it addresses the diversity, continuity and vitality of Native American cultures.

Contributing authors to the nine essays include Shelby J. Tisdale. Ph.D. and Lydia L. Wyckoff, Ph.D of Philbrook; Historical Anthropologist, J. Marshall Gettys; University of Arizona Head of Collections, Suzanne Griset, Ph.D.; Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of the American Indian Curator, Ann McMullen, Ph.D.; and Curator and Museum Director, Gloria Cranmer Webster, Ph.D.

Woven Worlds is sponsored in Tulsa by William Randolph Hearst Foundation, The John Steele Zink Foundation, PACERS Auxiliary, Inc., Ruth Ann Fate and Martin E. Fate Jr. Charitable Trust, Phillips Petroleum Company, National Endowment for the Arts, Oklahoma Humanities Council, Oklahoma Arts Council and Philbrook's Friends of Native American Art.

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