Local Native Basketry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art


If you were scrolling Instagram this morning (as one of our readers was), you might have seen a familiar basket form on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s account. The shot from the museum’s ongoing show Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection features a gorgeous piece by Elizabeth Hickox, a Wiyot and Karuk woman from Humboldt.

According to Brittany Britton of the Clarke Historical Museum, Hickox was based out of Orleans for most of her life and died in 1947. “She was one of the more well-known weavers from our area,” says Britton. Unlike many Native basket weavers, Hickox had a dealer/patron, Grace Nicholson, who kept artists’ names attached to pieces as she sold them and promoted Hickox’s work. On top of that, Hickox had a recognizable style. “Her baskets are very distinctive: lidded with the raised knob and the use of [black] maiden hair ferns,” says Britton.

The photo the Met posted is indicative of that style, though Britton notes the basket is oddly photographed from the back, showing the seam at the edge of the lid. It’s a shame, too, she says, that the lid is on since many of Hickox’s baskets open to reveal designs on the bottom. As for the pattern on the body of the basket, the “lightning” to which the post refers “looks more like obsidian blade with worm trail,” according to Britton, who adds translation of the names of design elements can be tricky.
If you can’t zip over to New York for the show, you can just wait until February, when the Clarke’s remodeling of the Hover Collection’s design case is finished and a couple of Hickox’s pieces, like the one shown in the video here, will be on display. Check out @clarkemuseum on Instagram for the full #basketoftheday video story.

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