Old Glory Deconstructed

Juanita’s Loom with Textile

A color warp

Usually, the weaving conceals the warp, so most mid-19th century Navajo weavings were done on natural, undyed wool warps. But here Juanita draws attention to what is usually hidden. Through the use of a color warp, which she leaves unwoven in the middle of the textile, Juanita is able to embed a counter-narrative that runs the entire length of the artwork. As a way to speak about treaties, perhaps she is also pointing to a mutual dependency between nations, how both sides depend on hidden relationships.

The Crosses

Is that even an American flag, or is it an example of strategic failure? To the initiated, this isn’t just an American flag. Those stripes harken back to the first-phase chief blankets. Stripes signified wisdom and power already. Like stars and crosses, they are much older than the American flag.

The Single Blue Star

One of the most striking moments in the piece is the appearance of a single blue star outside the canton. Hultgrent thinks the blue star may function in a similar way to the loose warp strands in the middle of the weaving. “It shows what lies beneath. For every cross that is woven in, Juanita must leave out that much blue yarn from the weaving….For every state added to the U.S., something or someone is excluded or extracted. To add a star, to draw a reservation boundary, to put Navajo land in relationship to the U.S., is to bury or erase an alternative set of relationships to the land that existed before colonialism. Juanita both enacts and refuses this erasure by weaving back in the blue yarn that was extracted.”

Bright colors signal darkness

One Navajo elder told me that the white crosses in Juanita’s textile also represent tombstones, and crosses all lined up like that suggests a massacre.

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