Janet Berlo will be coming to speak at the Indigenous Arts in Transition Seminar on Wednesday, March 20, 2013. Her talk is entitled “‘Prime Objects’ of the Gods? Replications and Transformations of Navajo Sandpainting Imagery.”

Janet Berlo is Professor of Art History and Professor of Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester in western New York. She holds a Ph.D. from Yale University. Berlo has written numerous books and articles on American quilts and Native North American art and has been a consultant to the National Museum of the American Indian and many other American museums. She has taught Native American art history as a visiting professor at Harvard University, Yale University, and the University of California, Los Angeles, and has received grants for her scholarly work on Native art from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Getty Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Berlo’s most recent book is the co-authored exhibition catalogue, José Bedia: Transcultural Pilgrim (Fowler Museum, UCLA, 2011 with Judith Bettelheim).

Exploring the relevance of George Kubler’s notion of ‘prime objects’ to a Navajo epistemology of art, Berlo’s lecture will examine multiple replications and transformations of Navajo sandpaintings. These ephemeral works, said to have first been created from the atmospheric materials of the universe by the Diyin Dine’é (translated as “Supernaturals” or “Holy People”), have long been used by Navajo hataali (“medicine men” or “chanters”) in healing ceremonies. Since the beginning of the 20th century, replicas of sandpaintings have been made in more permanent forms, including drawings and textiles. Collaborations between Navajo hataali and non-Native interlocutors have resulted in numerous published copies that have, in turn, served as templates for further replications, particularly by Navajo weavers. In her talk, Berlo will trace such replication across mediums and through intercultural collaborations in an effort to theorize the way in which Navajo people have grappled with ideas of collaboration, the aura of an original, and the reproducibility of sacred images.

Light refreshments will be served at 5:45 pm. The presentation will begin at 6:00 pm.

RSVP is required.

PLEASE NOTE that our Lecture Hall can only accommodate a limited number of people, so please come early if you would like to have a seat in the main room. We also have overflow seating available; all registrants who arrive late will be seated in the overflow area.