October 2010 Navajo Rug Exhibit Kings Art Center Marcellus Gallery
“The Navajo Rug” – Kings Art Center
October 9 – November 27, 2010
Marcellus Gallery – The Navajo Rug
From the Collection of Charley & Valerie Castles
Kings Art Center
605 N. Douty St.
The opening night for Charley’s “The Navajo Rug” show at the Kings Art Center happened on October 8th, 2010.
THE NAVAJO RUG
From the collection of
Charley & Valerie Castles
Like many kids growing up in the 1950’s I liked watching westerns on television
and playing Cowboys and Indians with the neighbor kids. Our neighborhood on Flint Avenue was pretty big; we had lots of space to roam and we had our own horses. That cowboy thing stuck with me; in high school I started competing in amateur rodeos with my ‘partner’ and local farmer Glenn Dooley that continued through college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
In my twenties I joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys’ Association and competed in Bareback Bronc riding at rodeos all over the west. My rodeo travels took me to Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico where the Native American cultures are part of everyday life. Fast forward to my late twenties when I finished an MBA at Fresno State and headed for Colorado with my new wife Valerie; we spent a year there working and traveling. At places like Mesa Verde National Park and The Heard Museum in Phoenix my interest and appreciation for Indians and their art continued. We collected a few mementos of our trips but not any Navajo rugs – they were out of our budget and we didn’t even have a home at the time. I didn’t start studying and buying rugs until early 2000, and it just sort of took off. Valerie like’s to say I finally understood the joy of shopping.
The collection is diverse in age and style; 30% of the rugs are contemporary (post 1940) and 70% are considered Historic (pre 1940), of those, five of the weavings are more than 100 years old. The style name of a rug designates the area within the Navajo reservation where the rug was made. I’m especially lucky to have five Bisti rugs that were woven between 1920 and 1930; Bisti means Badlands in the Navajo language; they are the rarest of the regional rugs and are known for the numerous borders that surround a center field, sometimes up to nine borders. The center design can include prayer feathers, circles, and complex geometric patterns. I admire the fine, tight weaving and intricate designs the Navajo women put into each rug. Coyote Mask is a favorite because it is very different than the rest of the collection; it is a very new rug and quite modern in its pictorial style. The Coyote is important in Navajo life; he always seems to be lurking just out of view; he is a shadowy figure that can be funny or fearsome.
The exhibit also includes rugs that depict gods (Yei) or people portraying gods (Yeibichei). There are traditional designs symbolizing rain, waterbugs, lightning sticks, birds, feathers, arrows mountains, and lots of geometric patterns. All of the rugs are made of wool; some of the colors are natural, others are from natural dyes, and still others are from manufactured dyes.