AuthorParezo, Nancy Jean
Sandpaintings -- Economic aspects.
Navajo Indians -- Rites and ceremonies.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study documents the recent commercialization and secularization of a form of religious art by the Navajo Indians of northern Arizona and New Mexico. The form, commercial sandpainting, is made of pulverized dry materials glued onto a permanent backing. Sacred sandpaintings are impermanent pictures that attract powerful supernaturals who are invoked to cure and to bless. The paintings are intentionally destroyed at the end of the ceremony and their use is surrounded by supernaturally sanctioned prescriptions. Unlike the sacred form from which the decorative art stemmed, commercial sandpaintings are designed and made as part of the national Indian arts and crafts market. The development of commercial sandpaintings, therefore, involved a shift from a sacred to a secular domain and a shift from native use to non-native consumption. The purpose of this work is to understand how and why a group of people decided to commercialize a sacred art form and the social and artistic repercussions of intentional sale to outsiders and the breaking of widely held religious rules. It focuses on the mechanisms of this complex process of innovation and diffusion. Basically it identifies the innovators and founders (both Navajo and Anglo-American), when and where these events occurred, how the idea to make commercial sandpaintings spread, and why Navajos who subsequently became sandpainters decided to pursue the craft. It will be shown that while reasons were numerous, economics was always of central importance. It is concluded that the commercialization of ethnic art occurs because of poverty situations when makers have few economic alternatives and there is a demand for luxury items by another group.
Degree ProgramGraduate College