Campus News

Native American gloves on display at Georgia Museum of Art

Real Western Wear: Beaded Gauntlets from the William P. Healey Collection, an exhibition of decorated gloves that reflect the diverse backgrounds of the American frontier, is on view at the Georgia Museum of Art through Jan. 6.

Drawn from the private collection of William P. Healey, the exhibition presents 73 pairs of decorated gloves crafted by American Indian artists from the Plains, Plateau and Great Basin regions. Produced from the 1890s through the 1940s, the gloves effectively blend the practicality of everyday items geared for use in the frontier with beautiful designs from the tribes in those areas.

For centuries, American Indian artists have embroidered porcupine quills, bird feathers and moose hair onto a variety of objects and surfaces. They soon integrated new materials such as glass beads and silk thread into existing traditions, merging these new design elements into their art. Despite their foreign origins, these imported items soon became identifiers of American Indian aesthetics to both native and non-native people.

Euro-American leather gloves were among the objects adorned with native beadwork and worn in both Indian and non-Indian communities. Indian women found that settlers desired all of the buckskin work gloves that they could produce. By the late 19th century, beaded gauntlets had become necessary components of cowboys’ fancy dress wardrobe and favorite items of Eastern “dudes,” who kept them as souvenirs of their Western adventures. The rodeo and western pageants after 1910 further fueled demand for the gloves.