African American Art
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Prints and Drawings
tanned hide, rawhide, glass seed beads, and porcupine quills
each: 4 1/2 × 4 1/2 × 10 in. (11.4 × 11.4 × 25.4 cm)
The Donald Danforth Jr. Collection, Gift of Mrs. Donald Danforth Jr.
: Not On View
The red decoration on these moccasins is made from porcupine quills, part of a rich Plains artistic tradition filled with cultural and symbolic meaning. Quillwork decoration, still practiced today, predates beadwork and often provides inspiration for later bead designs. Quills are softened with water, dyed with berries, roots, and plants, and then tightly wrapped and stitched or plaited onto hides to create visually powerful patterns, such as the “trail of life” or “right path” horizontal line designs on these moccasins.
Quillwork as an activity represents one way Plains communities connect with the spiritual realm. Only the most honorable women can acquire the knowledge and skill of quillwork through membership in societies or guilds, and this specialized knowledge allows them to earn respect and prestige through artistic accomplishments in quill designs.
Plains Indian Beadwork from the Donald Danforth Jr. Collection
November 17, 2006 – July 7, 2007
Saint Louis Art Museum
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