Beauty in Originality

Native American Art Magazine|June - July 2020

Beauty in Originality
Collectors can explore stunning examples of historic Haudenosaunee bags during an online exhibition at John Molloy Gallery.
By Alyssa M. Tidwell

After the conclusion of the American Revolution in 1783, life would be irrevocably changed for the masses. Indeed, for the colonists who had come from Great Britain and ultimately fought for an independent America, it was an era of opportunity and new horizons in the aftermath of a long and bloody battle. For the Haudenosaunee people of the Northeast, known also as the Iroquois, this period in history meant something different. Having supported the British during the conflict, their traditional way of life was altered dramatically post-revolution. The Iroquois Confederacy was defanged, their land stripped away and their power rendered obsolete. A displaced people, in order to uphold their traditions and tell their stories, they turned toward art. The earliest known examples of Haudenosaunee beaded women’s bags—a form of creative expression as well as a means of making money—date as far back as 1794. It was in this time period up to about 1860 that we see the most original and creative examples of these works.

“The fineness of the beadwork, the uniqueness of the design and the beauty of the pieces speak for themselves,” says John Molloy, owner of John Molloy Gallery in New York City. “What fascinates me is how Native artists responded to this great cultural conflict they were in when their traditional lifestyle was upended.” In present-day 2020, the world finds itself caught in its own struggle as people try to find beauty and meaning in uncertain times. Despite the difficulties we currently face amidst the global pandemic, John Molloy Gallery has found a workaround that allows collectors the chance to continue viewing and discovering extraordinary art. The online exhibition, Beaded Beauty: Early 19th Century Haudenosaunee Women’s Bags, highlights dozens of examples of beaded bags that reflect the resilience and ingenuity of the Haudenosaunee. “Native artists have always responded to this upended chaos by making new beautiful works that didn’t previously exist,” Molloy adds.

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June - July 2020