It’s black and white
It started with a “Splat,” then came “Black Hole,” “Boomerang,” and most recently, “Diné Diamonds.”
What can all those things possibly have in common? Well, when it comes to Twin Rocks Trading Post, the likely answer is Navajo baskets, and baskets it is.
First, a little context. Several years ago, we decided the area above the plate glass windows looking out onto our small town needed something distinctive, something exciting to fill the empty space.
The expanse is long and narrow, approximately 14 inches wide by almost 80 feet long. So, as they say, we “cussed and discussed,” until we ultimately decided the only sensible solution was to ask weavers to create new versions of the traditional ceremonial basket.
Our thought was this would help educate our customers about Navajo life, customs, traditions, and legends and create a visually stimulating display.
Using a basic motif, we requested the makers weave something fresh and new, never before seen, but recognizable as a ceremonially-inspired basket.
The artists could use contemporary colors, add design elements, subtract features – whatever they thought was interesting; they just had to retain the traditional foundation.
That was 2009 and the Great Recession had just come crashing onto our shores, so neither we, nor the artists, had much to do besides fret about the economy and pray things didn’t get worse.
This new project seemed like a good way to distract us, keep a little capital flowing to the artists, occupy our time, and conceivably generate some business.
It was a bit like the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression of the 1930s, only smaller. We had to have something to do or we would go crazier.
As a result of the collaboration, the local weavers created almost 100 stunning weavings showcasing their ingenuity and creativity.
There was the “Striped Cat,” “Abstract Butterflies,” “Blue-eyed Sheep,” “Walking Sun,” and many, many more.
As luck would have it, along came representatives from the Natural History Museum of Utah, who determined they should have all the baskets for their collections.
That was 2018 and the “Window Collection” was fully transferred to the museum in early 2019. Consequently, for approximately a year and a half, we have once again been staring at blank space.
As I may have previously mentioned, at Twin Rocks Trading Post, we are converts to the philosophy that nature abhors a void, so the window expanse had to be filled.
So, the “cussing and discussing” resumed. This time it was even more animated, and my input was influenced by events of my youth.
To explain, when I was young, Momma Rose sat me down to deliver some unfortunate news. With a concerned look on her face, she revealed I do not have the color gene.
Color blind? No, not a problem; I have a full spectrum.
I cannot, however, be relied upon to match things up. Rose’s diagnosis came after careful observation over an extended period of time and included at least one expert in the field.
Although she was unaware of anyone in my linage with the same missing link, Rose was confident my genetic code did not include that particular sequence.
She correctly predicted I could expect to be color challenged my entire life and that things would therefore be difficult for me. As it turns out, it is like being dyslexic, only different.
This, of course, was long before Celera Genomics and Dr. Craig Venter sequenced the human genome, so Rose may not have had the correct terminology.
She was, however, secure in her conclusion. Rose knew when something was amiss with her offspring and also knew kids can be unkind. Rose is a compassionate individual and probably wanted to prepare me for the difficulties she knew would come.
As Rose concluded her report, she looked at what I was wearing and exclaimed, “Just look at you!”
It was the psychedelic ‘60s after all, and I, like the evolving culture, believed anything was possible. Rose assured me society and I were both wrong.
Although I maintained my choice of clothing was perfectly fine, she shook her head and sent me back to retool.
When Twin Rocks was opened 20 years later, it became an unspoken rule that I was not allowed to assign coloring to the new rug or basket designs.
The few times I had been engaged in the process things had gone desperately wrong, so new regulations were adopted barring me from the undertaking. While my feelings were injured, cash flow improved.
As time went on, I discovered black and white went perfectly well together, and I didn’t have to worry about missing genes or mismatched socks.
While I was fascinated to know black results from the absence or complete absorption of visible light, and white represents perfect reflection, I was even more pleased to know people did not look askance when I wore them together.
Even Rose seemed satisfied I had found a solution to my genetic defect.
So, when it came time to fill the void, everyone at Twin Rocks knew it had to be black and white baskets or there would be trouble at the trading post.
So, Joann Johnson’s “Splat,” Elsie Holiday’s “Black Hole,” and Alicia Nelson’s “Boomerang” and “Diné Diamonds” were created to seed the New Window Collection.
As Andri Caldwell, the well-known American photographer once said, “To see in color is a delight for the eye, but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul.”