Publication Reviews 34.4

Melissa S. Powell and C. Jill Grady, editors, 2010 Huichol Art and Culture: Balancing the World. Santa Fe, Museum of New Mexico Press: 165 p., softcover, $39.95, available at

A beautifully produced companion volume to the exhibit of the same name (see review on pages 22, 23) at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, Huichol Art and Culture: Balancing the World is an indispensable reference work for the collector or researcher, laden with feast-your-eyes photographs of the superb artifacts collected by Robert M. Zingg, the first anthropologist to do extensive fieldwork (1934-35) among the Huichol, a Native American people of western Mexico. Despite their reputation for their art and an exaggerated notoriety for the use of peyote cactus in sacred rituals, the Huichol themselves have mostly remained a mystery. Several authors contributed the book’s chapters, and although the writing quality varies, the scholarship stands out, assiduously explaining Huichol belief systems, devotional arts, weavings, society, and culture.

While the exhibit largely concerns Zingg’s historic work, the book extends to the present day. Zingg’s black-and- white photographs accompany contemporary images of the Huichol, illustrating what has changed (like using metal pots and pans) and how they evolved the commercial applications of their art. Peter T. Furst’s chapter on Zingg’s life and career talks about his strategies for establishing a rapport with the Huichol (to start with, he ran a small store). Susana Eger Valadez, director of the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts in Jalisco, Mexico, describes attending a recent Corn Mother ceremony, crucial to the Huichol understanding of their role in preserving the balance among the multiple worlds they inhabit. With coal companies and missionaries invading their traditional lands and lives, the Huichol have managed to hang on, at least for now.


Leslie Clark




Michelle LeBaron and Susan Noyes Platt 2009 Loud Bones: The Jewelry of Nancy Worden. Seattle, Tacoma Art Museum: 128 p., hardcover $40.00, soft cover $24.95, available at the Tacoma Art Museum Store: 253.272.4258.

From June 27 through September 20, 2009, the Tacoma Art Museum (followed by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art) presented Loud Bones: The Jewelry of Nancy Worden. It was a spectacular exhibition and true to Worden’s oeuvre developed in some forty years, the show displayed Worden’s in-your-face passions, no holds barred. For the whole world to see and consider, Worden expresses as much as she can take on, the full range of human emotion, through a very female voice, in each piece—tender, loving, compassionate, angry, belligerent, didactic, and so much more.

This important catalog produced in association with the Tacoma Art Museum is a treasure to be included in all contemporary jewelry book collections. It is a personal and professional timeline of Worden’s life journey and aesthetic development. The catalog presents and interprets her resolution of the hot issues we all live with today. Worden takes them all on: politics, race, gender, sex, physical appearance, religion, marriage, family.

With excellent essays by Susan Noyes Platt, in particular Michelle LeBaron’s contemplative musings on Worden’s embrace of truth and beauty in life and art, and an interview conducted by Rock Hushka, curator from the Tacoma Art Museum, the catalog is as compulsively composed as Worden’s jewelry, every ‘t’ and ‘i’ is crossed and dotted. There are photographs of works in the exhibition (always a downer compared to seeing the actual works, no matter how well photographed), an exhibition checklist and a chronology of life and influences. Among them were Ornament’s two feature articles, one of them a cover of Terminology, largely composed of IBM Selectric typewriter elements (Vol. 20, No. 1, Autumn 1996), the found objects that are a defining feature of her compositions.

Hushka asks Worden (page 114) about how her career developed and her influence expanded; what had she learned that influenced her thinking the most. Worden replies: “Recognizing and understanding exactly who I am has been the most important thing I’ve learned. I am an American woman, born in the mid-twentieth century, and I came of age at a time when women’s roles were changing. I am Caucasian, middle class, college-educated, married, and a mother. The importance of knowing who and what you are in the search to find your voice is paramount.” Amen.


Carolyn L. E. Benesh




Hamish Bowles 2011 Balenciaga and Spain. San Francisco, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and New York, Skira Rizzoli Publications, Inc.: 256 p., hardcover $65.00, softcover $32.95, available at the de Young Museum Store: 415.750.3642.

Balenciaga and Spain is a beautifully produced and thoughtfully evocative book of twentieth-century designer Cristóbal Balenciaga’s influences and creations of over three decades of active work. This elegant volume is a must have and should find its way into the personal and professional library collections of those who follow fashion’s history and, in the instructive case of Balenciaga, appreciate the strong cross-connectedness between art, society and culture that his work demonstrated over his long, successful career (see feature article on pages 52-57).

In 1973 Baroness Pauline de Rothschild, one of his most devoted of clients, succinctly and definitively described Balenciaga’s dominance in the world of fashion as “His name became synonymous with perfection and elegance.” The book is sectioned into the primary forces that drove Balenciaga’s vision and creativity, all emanating from his nostalgia and longing for the Spanish homeland that he left as a young man in 1937 and to which he rarely returned. As with the rest of the fashionable world it was to Paris where he would build his career and it was there that his atelier achieved the noble title of haute couture.

The author Hamish Bowles, a fashion journalist and the European editor at large for the American edition of Vogue magazine, delves in depth the degree to which Balenciaga’s native Spain was such a critical and primary influence on him, in chapters titled Royal Court, Religious Life, Dance, The Bullfight, and Regional Dress. Each chapter in words and photography distills the very qualities that made Balenciaga such a force with which to be reckoned until the day he so suddenly closed his shop in 1968.

The book displays to the finest the austere and minimalist designs that Balenciaga utilized so distinctively, with his qualitative, discerning touches of breathtaking embroidery and beading casting an opulent aura over his garments, in addition to his use of laces, ruffles, ribbons, layers of silks and satin. His work was not without whimsy, but that was always to be found at the top of the head with his wonderful hats, contrasting with the sober quality of the garment itself.

While Balenciaga famously was known for his impeccable tailoring, innovative fabrics and technical mastery, it was the sheer beauty and elegance of his silhouettes, whether gown or dress, that showed off his particular genius for a certain kind of female sensuousness, neither compromised nor distorted, whatever the age.






Marcia Pointon 2010 Brilliant Effects: A Cultural History of Gem Stones and Jewellery. New Haven, Yale University Press in association with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art: 368 p., hardcover $85.00, available at

In this exquisitely broad-ranging and exceptional work of cultural and art history, Marcia Pointon, Professor Emeritus in History of Art, Manchester University, explores what owning, wearing, distributing, and circulating gems and jewelry has meant in the Post-Renaissance history of Europe.

With the carefully trained eye of an expert, Pointon examines the capacity of jewelry not only to fascinate but also to create disorder and controversy throughout history and across cultures.

In its scope from precious stones as raw wealth to the symbolic properties of gems, Brilliant Effects shows how small-scale and valuable artifacts have figured in systems of belief and in political and social practice in Europe since the Renaissance.

Pointon convincingly states that what is materially precious is invariably contentious. When what is precious is a finely crafted artifact made from hard-won imported materials, the stakes become particularly high. For example, the political fallout that took place when France’s Queen Marie-Antoinette was implicated in a stolen diamond necklace.

Not only gloriously illustrated but rich in its references, this fascinating book thoughtfully invites us to reassess the importance of material things as powerful agents in human relations and in visual and verbal representation.





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Our upcoming issue 37.4 contains


Nubian Jewelry

Kate Mensah

Philadelphia Craft Show


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