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Carrie Bethel, Basket bowl

Join Gaylord Torrence and Brian Vallo for a closer look at, and in-depth commentary on, a selection of highlights in the exhibition Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection. https://wwwreview.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2018/art-of-native-america-diker-collection Featuring Gaylord Torrence, Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art, The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art Basket Bowl https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/717568 The exhibition is made possible by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, the Enterprise Holdings Endowment, and the Walton Family Foundation. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is situated in Lenapehoking, the homeland of Lenape peoples, and respectfully acknowledges their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to the area. Credits Editor: Sarah Cowan Producer: Melissa Bell Audio: David Raymond Photography: Eileen Travell Music: Austin Fisher. Archival images Carrie Bethel, Courtesy Yosemite National Park Archives, Museum, and Library © 2018 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Video transcript

TORRENCE: This basket, I feel is one of the most extraordinary works in the Diker Collection, and one of the great baskets in existence. It was created by a young woman named Carrie Bethel in 1926. She was born in 1898, so she wasn’t very old when she set out to produce this basket. She worked on this basket for three years, and her intent was to enter it in a competition. There were annual events at Yosemite Park called American Indian Field Days and these were celebrations of Indian culture, they were geared towards the tourist trade. And they were very much a part of the revival and the interest in Native American basketry. Artists were competing with one another in terms of the fineness of the baskets that they were able to create. What this basket embodies for me is the most extraordinary relationship of structure, volumetric form, and two-dimensional design. A basket is essentially a textile. There is not a warp and a weft, but rather there are coils and there are stitches. Each coil is sewn to the next coil. Before a basket like this could even be started, there was enormous knowledge involved in gathering the proper materials at the proper time of year and processing them. And the coils are made of willow, and the primary stitching that you see is sedge root, and that imparts this beautiful variegated brown color across the surface. And then the large black designs are constructed of bracken root, and then the red is redbud. This basket was created by the coil method, which means that she began at the bottom center, and she began to coil outward, until she formed the base, and then she began to move her coils upward. Coil by coil, she began to create the design, so it’s an act of mathematical precision. The outcome of this work is filled with a remarkable sense of tension. The quality of this basket was widely recognized. This won first place in the competition.