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"John A. and Margaret Hill Collection of American Western Art AND Silver Blossoms, Turquoise Mountains: Southwest Indian Jewelry"
2001-06-24 until 2001-08-26
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum
Wausau, WI, USA United States of America

The John A. and Margaret Hill Collection of American Western Art has been organized by Cheekwood-Tennessee Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art, Nashville. Woodson Art Museum curator Andrew McGivern and intern Liz Flaig organized Silver Blossoms, Turquoise Mountains: Southwest Indian Jewelry from the collection of the Logan Museum of Anthropology, Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin, and from a private collection.

As a connoisseur of American art, John Hill collected what he believed in, which was the myth of the American West. It is a myth that has shaped this nation more than any other. From it, comes our sense of magisterial landscapes dwarfing human actions, of self-reliance and hardy individualism, of reaching for the ever-expanding horizon.

Hill grew up in Colorado, his wife, Margaret, in New Mexico. When they married in 1930, their mutual interests determined the direction of their collecting focus. The scenes they collected were common experience rather than nostalgia. For John and Margaret Hill, the myth of the American West was reality.

The collection concentrates on works of the 20th century with fine examples from the Taos Society of Artists, the Santa Fe School, and the American Regionalists. The Taos Society was composed primarily of Easterners such as Oscar Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse, Ernest Blumenschein, and Robert Henri who went West to see the scenery and stayed to paint it. Artists representing the Santa Fe School include Emil Bisttram, Gerald Cassidy, and Sheldon Parsons. The popular trio of Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood, among others, represent the regionalist movement.

The Hill Collection is highly personal, reflecting what John Hill describes as artworks that bring memories of the great West with all of its romance, history, and colorful pioneering days. In their paintings, sculpture, and works on paper whether depicting genre scenes, portraits, landscapes, adobe structures, or modes of transportation artists of the American West touched a universal chord in the hearts of people all over the world, including John and Margaret Hill.

Silver Blossoms, Turquoise Mountains comprises forty 20th century works created by Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni craftspeople. As a whole, the pieces reflect the natural beauty of the Southwest and native materials. Turquoise is the dominant stone, but red coral, seashells, bone, black onyx, and bear claw are also evident in the array of necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and bow guards. The animals, plants, and natural formations of the Southwest shape the myriad of jewelry designs created in the last century.

The practice of silversmithing among American Indians of the Southwest began in the 1850s when a Navajo, Atsidi Saani, learned blacksmithing at Fort Defiance, Arizona. He then taught the technique to others, thus laying the groundwork for a silversmithing tradition that has become highly desirable for its aesthetic qualities, whether proudly worn as objects of adornment or exchanged as items for commercial trade.

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