Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The "Give Away Horses" Dress

We admire talented craftspeople of all kinds, no matter what kind of art they excel at.
One of the most talented has to be Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty. According to the Native American Encyclopedia,

"Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty was born in Castro Valley, California in 1969; however, her family comes from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, where Juanita spent much of her childhood.
Her mother, Joyce Growing Thunder Fogarty, is also an acclaimed bead and quill artist and the only artist to have won best of show three times at the Santa Fe Indian Market. Both artists come from a long line of Plains Indians bead workers. Juanita learned skills from her mother and has been beading since the age of three."

So clearly, the woman almost oozes talent! Here is a glimpse of her work,
"Give Away Horses" dress

According to the Smithsonian,
"Made from elk skin and covered in countless blue and white beads sewed on one at a time, the dress is a highlight of the National Museum of the American Indian's "Identity by Design" exhibition. The Assiniboine/Sioux Indian is one of the West's most highly regarded beadworkers. She has created more than 500 dresses, cradle boards, dolls and other pieces, and has won top honors at the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts' annual show in Santa Fe three times—more than any other artist."
But the story doesn't end there. The artist had grown up on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana, where her grandfather Ben Gray Hawk, a tribal leader, performed a traditional "giveaway" ceremony. He would tie a war bonnet to a horse's head, sing a song paying tribute to loved ones and turn the horse loose into a crowd of men. Whoever caught the horse was able to keep it, an act of generosity meant to honor Gray Hawk's grandchildren.
Perhaps a close up of the dress will help fill in the blanks?

This dress is a part of the "Identity by Design" exhibit, which showcases 55 Native American dresses and 200 accessories from the 1830s to the present.

Joyce said she worked on it every day for ten months, usually waking at 4 a.m. and beading at her kitchen table for 16 hours. She says she felt the spirit of her ancestors beading along with her. Her daughter, Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty, and 18-year-old granddaughter, Jessica, who live in North San Juan, California, pitched in. Juanita made the breastplate, belt, knife case, awl case and bag for fire-starting tools; and Jessica made a beaded strip for the blanket. "We were constantly working," Juanita recalls. "Every now and then, I'd throw in a load of laundry, but we just kept at it."

The dress is Sioux-style, meaning the yoke (or cape) is completely covered in the small glass "seed" beads that Europeans introduced to Native artisans around 1840. (Originally, they made beads from shell, bone and stone.) The dress depicts not only horses and their tracks but also the rectangular drums used at the giveaway ceremony. Some of the accessories, such as the awl case (traditionally used to carry sewing tools), are seldom seen with modern Indian dresses. "I really wanted to make it real," Joyce says.

What a fabulous piece with a rich story!

1 comment:

  1. Extraordinary must have taken a gazillion seed beads! Very informative as well, thanks for sharing!