Friday, November 2, 2012

Chaos in a Basket

It was the 1990s, exactly when I do not remember. Damian Jim had been designing on his computer for a few years, and the contemporary Navajo basket revolution was ramping up. The weavings being brought into Twin Rocks Trading Post were uniquely exciting, and Barry and I were continuously amazed by their quality, quantity and diversity.
Navajo Chaos Basket - Lorraine Black (#224)
For us, the energy associated with the movement was unprecedented. Navajo baskets had become our passion. Mary Holiday Black, Elsie Holiday, Sally Black, Peggy Black, Joann Johnson and many other exceptional weavers came to see us regularly. The trading post was the center of an artistic vortex, the economy was steaming along and we all believed it would last forever.

Lorraine Black was positioning herself as one of our favorite artists. Not only did she design and weave extraordinary baskets, she was a lot of fun, laughing, joking and teasing whenever she arrived at the store. In return, we played practical jokes on her, talked about ancient traditions and explored Navajo culture through her eyes.

During that time, the storm clouds began to accumulate. Her marriage had hit the rocks, and the strain was beginning to show. Having recently gone through a difficult divorce of my own, I was sympathetic. While my wound was closing, hers was widening. The pain was revealed in her often teary her eyes and reflected in her lack of humor. She was obviously hurting, and there was not much we could do to help. Divorce is extremely personal, and those on the outside cannot comprehend what you feel on the inside. The best Barry, Priscilla and I could do was giving her a hug once in a while and support her art.

One afternoon I was in the store, doing reports, waiting on tourists and cleaning up when Lorraine dropped in with a weaving. I do not remember exactly why, maybe it was her emotions, maybe it was mine, but I recall the basket having enormous energy. Uncharacteristically, it did not have a unifying theme. Instead, there were many seemingly unrelated motifs, black and white alternating stitches and a positive-negative swirl. When she handed it to me I felt disoriented, a bit off balance. She said she felt the same, so we christened it the “Chaos Basket,” in honor of her state of mind.

The basket sold quickly, and over the years I have mentioned it, and its power, many times, wondering where it had gone. As the decades passed, Lorraine returned to her old self and we often pointed to that weaving as a reminder of what she was coping with at the time and how interesting it was that her emotions had been so accurately reflected in that particular basket.

A few months ago, one of our customers called with a question. He and his wife had retired and wanted to simplify their lives. Consequently, they were moving to a smaller home and selling a portion of their vast Southwest art collection. He wanted to know if I would be interested in repurchasing four or five baskets he had acquired from us. “Yes,” I said enthusiastically, “Kira and Grange, the Traders-in-Training, have a few extra dollars to invest and this seems a perfect fit.” So, the deal was struck.

After the baskets were delivered to the trading post, I showed them to Lorraine. At the bottom of the stack was one with an unusual variety of unrelated motifs, alternating black and white stitching and a positive-negative swirl. “It’s the Chaos Basket!” Lorraine shouted, and it was. I had failed to recognize it. Remembering how emotional the weaving was for us way back then, we were both surprised to discover we did not now have the same response. Our lives had changed, the world had moved on and time had closed the old wounds. The basket, however, stands as a snapshot of a very different time and how that period was captured in Lorraine’s art.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!
Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

1 comment:

Sondra said...

Very timely for me, my divorce was final this past Monday! The basket is lovley!