Mayan Weaving: A Magical Art

The reign of the ancient civilization of the Maya may have faded away with the Spanish conquest in the Americas, but important cultural elements continue to survive today. The study of artifacts from regions of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize reveals a sophisticated people with highly skilled artists. Although cloth and textile works deteriorate over time, researchers are able to piece together evidence from more permanent works of art, excavated weaving tools at various sites, and the practices and traditions of Mayan people living today to reveal the importance of fabric in ancient Mayan culture. Ceremonial clothing and the act of weaving itself can be better understood by looking more closely at a specific item of clothing like the huipil.

The huipil, “usually elaborately brocaded on a backstrap loom, is a traditional garment that continues to be popular and has great social significance” and the square-cut blouse is still a main component of  Mayan women’s clothing (Odland 6). In the case of the huipil, much of the current analysis about that “social significance” (Odland 6) is left to the imagination because fabric does not last through the centuries and we cannot assume that just because people do something today that they did it in the same way and for the same reasons as hundreds of years ago. Still, in looking to the past: “The continued importance of cloth as a prestige good during the Classic Maya period (C.E. 250-900) is demonstrated by representations of elaborate robes on women of high rank on Maya stelae, whose elite status is confirmed by the associated inscriptions” (Brumfiel 863). The sacred act of weaving, mainly by women, and the ceremonial role of the huipil is present in many works within the Classic Maya timeframe. This makes it an ideal research framework for Mayan textile art.

Although there is a tendency in Maya studies to place ancient traditions on a linear continuum through the present within a single paradigm or divide artifacts into high art and folk crafts, male or female, permanent or ephemeral, these boundaries cannot possibly be drawn with certainty. Indeed, as explained by art historian Pasztory: “While pre-Colombian art reveals a great richness and variety of traditions and implicit aesthetics…it is a passive body of material on which aesthetic theory can play its games and test its various ideas” (Pasztory 325). The attraction remains, however, to attempt time travel through the vessel of a surviving people who still link the ancient past with the ever-changing present. It is, therefore, still significant to ask what the current understanding of huipil designs and practices of the Classic Maya period say about the women who produced them as artists and to explore how this connects them to the weavers of today. In doing so it becomes clear that women weavers interpreted communal signs into sacred objects for ceremonial use, that their connection to the home and hearth added to the perceived supernatural powers woven into prestige garments and this benefited their societies, and that even in later huipil production there remains a traditional connection to place, community, and sacred use. Furthermore, looking at these intersections more closely can help position women’s crafts within their rightful place among the fine arts while exploring the inextricable link between the artist’s social position and her means of expression.

Women in Classic Mayan civilization fulfilled an important role by weaving cloth for ceremonial use according to the prescribed designs and practices.  Art historian Carolyn Tate rightly concludes that: “Unlike the secrecy or lack of recognition accorded women as potters and papermakers, women are explicitly associated with and respected for weaving in Maya society” (Tate 89). Historical evidence reveals that weaving stands out as a female art form that was also publicly acknowledged as such. It was not only significant that a huipil was woven in a certain way, but also that it was woven by a woman or by certain women. Weaving also reveals details about social hierarchies and positioning (Tate 89). If the represented colors, signs, and intricacy of designs mattered to social order, then the artists themselves were an integral link in this communication process that translated ceremonial symbols and designs into thread and garment. It’s important to remember, however, that “Maya art consistently reflects and refracts collective beliefs” (Looper 36). The final product was never an individual artist’s personal design, but a handcrafted rendition of pre-existing and limited symbols and signs laid out by tradition and religious guidelines (Looper 36). Weavers would have a pattern to follow, entrusted to them for later use in a successful ritual or ceremony, and the design would have an impact on their community large. Even if the work they produced wasn’t entirely personal, the sense of responsibility surely was.

There is also evidence, however, that sets the Maya apart in the region for their unique “cult of the artist” that “glorified individual achievement” (Pasztory 323). In this way, Mayan weavers would have some sense of an individual ruler or dynasty to produce for as well as a specific regional style and ceremonial function. In any case, “within the short span of Classic Maya art (A.D. 250-900) there is a wide variety of regional styles, as each Maya city… has its own genres and forms” (Pasztory 323).  Even within the possibly strict regimen allowed to women weavers, they were human beings and not machines, and there would also have been a local aesthetic and a focus on the specific needs of each community and time period. Most designs are related to water and fertility (Looper 36) but individual interpretation in emphasis and execution would allow weavers to make the appropriate choices for the situation at hand. Handwork remains highly individual, so even two weavers would use a variety of combinations of symbols, or have their own rendering of the same signs.

The artifact most clearly showing a huipil design from the eighth-century is the limestone panel, lintel 24, at Yaxchilan in the rainforest of Chiapas. Here, a figure of a woman is wearing a huipil with a repeated pattern of rhomboids, each with a diamond shape surrounded by triangles turned outwards within it (Morris 57). In its re-creation by scholars, the pattern is described as having a “vertical border of skybands with hocker [birthing position], X, cross, interlace, portal, sky variant and earflare motifs” and was pictured as part of a harvest offering celebrating the birth of Bird Jaguar as the ceremonial clothing of Lady Xoc (Looper 58). Unlike other reconstructed designs, this one is dense and richly brocaded. The patterned border has more variety in symbols and a greater complexity in motifs. It also reflects the impact of the huipil as a vehicle for meaning and communication at the time it was produced and in its afterlife as a stone effigy. The important event took place not just in the moment it happened, but also  in the weaving of the huipil and later in the carving of the stone. Undoubtedly, the artist herself played an integral part in this longer process. More interestingly, the role of the weaver also went beyond the physical realm of the woven object.

Mayan women were also believed to have had a supernatural connection to weaving that  infused the garments they produced and increased the fertility of the ceremonies they were connected to. This could be seen in actual designs.  Some huipiles picture rows of quatrefoils [four-leaved designs] that “equate the surface of the textile with the surface of the earth, both pierced by such openings” (Joyce 76). In this way, the woven blouse is itself a portal between the heavens, underworlds, and earth. The pathway is actually created by the weaver during a sort of magical production process. Even more profound is the ancient Mayan belief that conception, birthing, and weaving are all equally connected to the moon goddess (Prechtel and Carlsen 123), so that women are seen as giving life to a huipil in the same way as to their own child. This adds another level of sanctity to the act of weaving and further establishes the unique contribution women made to this highly personal art form. Even the main weaving tool, the backstrap loom, in its proximity to the body can be seen as a living part of the weaver’s birthing of a powerful ritual object.

Furthermore, Carolyn Tate makes the observation that: “Women were probably conceived as having a heightened connection to the spiritual realm of ancestors and the forces of cosmic order and disorder”(Tate 99). If this is true, then the place of women in the home; taking care of food, children, and comfort had a ritual function as well as a social one. Their body, through weaving hands,  would not only create a sort of living huipil, but the blouse would be connected to the gods before it was even used in a ceremonial way. This represents inspired art in the most literal sense as the entire community would understand the magical meaning of a singular blouse. If stone replicas were produced depicting the huipil, then this would carry over to later generations as well.

Looking specifically at the huipil in lintel 24 once again, the sheer amount of thread used in the design is also an indication of its importance. If the display of wealth was part of the function of the heavy set crosses enclosed by diamonds and the thickly brocaded borders, then the artist commissioned to handle this expensive finery would have a unique and coveted role within the royal sphere and society at large. Part of the prestige of the garment itself would be in the spiritual connection of the weaver. This is meaningful, because, though there were possibly few weavers of the highest stature, all women would have to weave for their daily needs in normal, unadorned clothing as well. The act of weaving in itself, since it also had a deeper spiritual and societal meaning, connected Mayan women at large to a higher calling through a quotidian activity. This double-sided purpose of the huipil, on the one hand a sacred object connected to matters of cosmological importance, and on the other hand, a necessary piece of clothing rooted firmly in the mundane, is one aspect of the textile that has remained through the centuries.

Although links can be made between ancient Mayans and modern Mayans in weaving traditions and other areas, it is crucial to remember the vast amounts of time and history between the two. The scholar, Pyburn, describes a theoretical climate in which ‘the Maya of today are invariably said to be living in the past, and are therefore subordinate to their mysterious but culturally pure distant ancestors” ( Pyburn 116). This attitude draws conclusions about the present day Maya that denies them an autonomous and independently valid culture. If they are compared to some previous ideal, it always places them in an inferior position. At the same time, Pyburn also warns against setting “out with the assumption that the Maya were traditional and premodern” and challenges scholars to “ask if they might have been progressive and modern” (Pyburn 117). If this thinking is applied to the huipil, then there is room for the notion that artistic, societal, and spiritual ideals of the Classic Mayan period could still play a vital role in the minds of contemporary Mayan weavers. It also allows for additional interpretations of the purpose of weaving among the Ancient Maya; like those of a modern marketplace and a class of skilled artisans with economic motives. What persists, however, is the cloth, and as it stands, not much remains from the past. The current generation of researchers is eagerly in service of locating and preserving Mayan textiles, albeit of more recent production.

The huipil of today still carries significant cultural meaning to modern Mayas in their connection to place, sacred ritual, and position in society. The traditional blouse “indicates by design, trim, and construction the occasion for which it is intended, the wearer’s economic status, age group, and expertise weaving on a backstrap loom” (Kellman 38). Textiles of Mayan communities are also still distinguished by their regional styles that show “whether figures or images are meant to be naturalistic, geometric, or flat, or whether colors are to blend one into another or to be separate, bright, acidic, or contrasting” (Kellman 38). Understanding of the multiple layers of meaning in the huipil is greatly improved by having living artists to explain their process and connection to weaving. The design and symbols used in the cloth situates them within a social group in a specific village and language category. They are aware, however, of the ancient designs and their sacred ceremonial usage and have been exposed to older revered huipiles that adorn the saint statues throughout the Catholic churches of Latin America. Therefore, even if women weavers are firmly in the present, past practices and mythologies in oral traditions, folk tales, and inherited practices undoubtedly still influence them.

The oldest remaining cloth huipiles in Chiapas date back around 150 years and the weavings on them are not ancient Mayan glyphs, which were outlawed by the Spanish, but colorful geometric patterns. The Classic rhomboids and quatrefoils are still used, however, as are the signs recognized as toad, monkey, snake, and butterfly (Morris 54).  Far from disappearing due to Spanish colonial attempts to stamp out native beliefs and traditions, huipil creation was revived in the late 19th century in places like Santa Maria Magdalenas where a local woman had a dream of a saint ordering her to make a new blouse and bring it to the church (Morris 55). This same woman went on to teach the old brocade techniques to other villagers based on the found huipil design and this same process spread to neighboring villages until weaving became widespread once again. As in the Classic Mayan period, it was women who felt a unique calling to weave and it remained a spiritual endeavor that connected the artist to religious ceremony and societal relationships. Further, these weavers in Chiapas once again started using the same designs of the diamond, cross, toad, and hocker that are visible on the huipil of Lady Xoc on lintel 24. Instead of the symbols adding a supernatural realm to the textile, though, they tell a story of the past and link the weaver and wearer to a larger society and longer history of Mayan tradition. The Classic Mayan realm of moon goddess weavers giving birth to a huipil to connect heaven and earth may have closed but modern weavers have held on to the personal and spiritual meaning of their still valuable position.

Textiles are an unlikely artifact to keep track of history, tradition, and cosmology. They are lightweight, fragile, unimposing, and ubiquitous. Cloth lies close to the body of the living, of the dead, and of the sacred and magical. It is fitting that Mayan women are associated with textiles just as it makes sense that the moon goddess is connected with weaving for the ancient Maya. If “one of women’s fundamental roles is to creatively transform objects, influences, materials, and ideas in order to appropriate them into indigenous culture” (Berlo 130)  then the weavers of today and yesterday are still in dialogue about ceremonial signs and language, visual markers of place and space, and societal responsibility for the perpetuation of a people and a culture. Moreover, in preserving huipiles and gathering their history, researchers are shifting the everyday craft of weaving clothing and other textiles to its rightful place among the fine arts of ancient civilizations. The medium might be ephemeral but the impact has lasted centuries.


Pop Chalee, Studio Style, and How Bambi Was Born in Santa Fe

 For Native-American children in the American Southwest, the 1930s marked a shift in federal Indian policies at American Indian Boarding Schools that permitted increased freedom to practice native languages and culture (Bernstein, Bruce and W. Jackson Rushing Preface). Within this institutional setting, the non-Native painting instructor Dorothy Dunn founded the Studio school at the Santa Fe Indian School in 1932 with the intention of helping students uncover “an ‘authentically Indian’ way to paint” (Berlo, Janet Catherine and Ruth B. Phillips 217). Students ranging in age from eleven to twenty-one produced works in the “Traditional” and “Studio” styles that are in museums across the American Southwest today (Bernstein, Bruce and W. Jackson Rushing Preface). One of Dunn’s students, Pop Chalee (Blue Flower), born Merina Lujan in 1906 (Van Ness Seymour 165), went on to become symbolic of the strengths and weaknesses of early attempts at cross-cultural arts education and of the movement itself.

While crediting Dunn as well intentioned, the scholar J.J Brody dismisses Santa Fe Studio art as “fatally marred by subject dishonesty…decorative… and emotionally sterile” (Brody 146). He also asserts that instead of finding personal meaning in their work, artists of “The Studio” only painted for financial gain (Brody 190). These arguments attack the authenticity of artwork that can by its very nature never be truly Native-American in the traditional sense since easel painting was a European practice (Anthes Preface xv). W. Jackson Rushing acknowledges the influence of institutions and patrons on the art movement as a necessary and limiting evil that nevertheless defined it (Rushing 7,8).  While the notion of a non-Native teacher like Dunn shaping a system of authentic Indian painting within an almost “prisonlike” setting (Smith 119) is problematic, it doesn’t account for the experiences of the artists themselves and the impact their work had on future artists and popular culture.

In order to present a more complete picture of this period in American art history and explore notions of authenticity within the framework of Native-American artists themselves, it is necessary to ask the following question: How did the content, style and intentions of these painters reflect their unique position somewhere between their own cultural context and communities and a non-Native art market? Looking more closely at Pop Chalee as a commercially successful Native-American artist educated in the Studio school allows for new paths of thinking that are mindful of Native-American religious and cultural practices and that produce an enriched and more relevant description of this influential American art movement. In doing so, it is apparent that the repetitive and seemingly simplistic themes of her paintings only partially mask a much larger Native-American cosmology, that the experience of the visual style and design depends on the viewer, and that these elements combined with the position of Native-American artists supported by non-Native patrons reveal a unique and personal tension in the images that only add to their legitimacy as Native-American art.

Pop Chalee’s story, although exceptional in some ways, is also typical of many of her contemporaries, and offers a glimpse into the Southwest art scene for Native-Americans in the 1930s.  Chalee entered the Santa Fe Studio as a married mother of two, twenty years after leaving the Indian School. She was told in a vision that she should be an artist, although it is more likely she saw opportunities through her connections to the Taos arts commune through her uncle, a Native-American married to a wealthy European art patron. Indeed it was through his intervention that she was admitted to the program despite her age and initially encouraged to become a teacher. Her many paintings of dainty forest creatures including deer, rabbits, and skunks later earned them the pejorative label of “Bambi style”, however, she contends that Walt Disney visited her studio the year before starting sketches for the Bambi animated feature and that it was he who was inspired by her work. Given the timeline and the similarity in style and content, some art historians find this a plausible explanation (Cesa 53, 72). Acknowledging the influence of Studio artists like Chalee, not just on a popular icon like Disney, but also on the painters who followed them calls for a reexamination of the impact of repeated paintings of wildlife and landscape by Native-American artists. The highly stylized and imitated designs indicate an art movement, not merely an economic venture, and that would call for an expanded analysis of the works.

Furthermore, Pop Chalee’s paintings, like many created in the Studio school, are not only notable for what is in the picture, but also for what is left out. Scholar Michelle McGeough, in her overview of the Studio artists, delves into what members of Native-American communities are taught from birth: “In some Pueblo communities, religious tradition prohibited the depiction of ceremonies and the representation of the human figure” (McGeough 65). Since religious practices are learned through secret initiation rituals and passed down orally, the impulse to visually depict clan histories or personal practices would have been limited to subject matter considered public. The focus on vegetation and wildlife are part of that “public” cosmology that reflect the “notion of beauty…defined by harmony, order, and balance”(McGeough 67). Indeed, the color and composition in Studio school paintings generally reflect a specific type of equilibrium centered in the middle of the image that moves to the right and left. At the same time, “the land, the animals, the plant life, and the water are all sacred elements” (McGeough 67) and depictions of them would have connected the artist to their own history, community, and belief system. In this way, personal expression would have been about meeting the challenge of respecting tradition and translating the Native world to non-Native viewers. Studio artists, like other artists at the time, had to create an image that communicated something abstract and internal, however, in their case; it was molded by their specific position between two cultural worlds.

These values are also represented in Pop Chalee’s numerous deer paintings. She describes her own Hounds Chasing a Deer [Figure 1]: “This is a scene that my grandfather and I saw up in Taos. We were going up after wood, and we saw this beautiful deer and two hounds going after the deer. And of course, the deer is sacred. When an Indian kills a deer, he prays. They have a ceremony for the deer before they cut him up” (Van Ness Seymour 188). The deer becomes more than an animal: it is a symbol for the sacred that it represents. It is a reminder of the ceremonies related to the deer and the prayers of thanks for food provided from the heavenly realm. The repetition of it over multiple years of artworks is then potentially part of a larger spiritual practice that crosses over from traditional methods like basket weaving to the canvas. In this respect, there could be few subjects more authentic to Native-American artists than forest creatures and scenes of nature. When Chalee places the deer in the woodlands, the ones “near Taos are represented by the pine tree and the plants,” she also explains that the “flowers are very important to the Taos Indians, part of their religion. There is beauty” (Seymour 188). Specific flowers and trees stand in for ideas of home and the Taos region as well as embodying Native-American concepts of harmony, beauty, and ceremony. When looked at in this way, Chalee’s deer paintings could be categorized as self-portraits within a framework that forbids images of her own face. Few genres of painting are more personal and honest than that. This interpretation of the painting’s content can only be reached by taking Chalee’s intentions and background into account. Unfortunately, art collectors at the time were as unaware of the traditional significance of content in Studio paintings as they were of Native-American visual training when viewing painted canvases.

     While design attempts were made through color and pattern to reduce the admittedly flat appearance of Studio school paintings, they would not have been two-dimensional to Native-American viewers. In some ways, Navajo sandpainting, “an ephemeral art made of crushed minerals of the earth itself,” (Berlo 10) is the closest related traditional art form to easel painting in that it is performed on a flat surface. More importantly, “Navajo sandpainting-like related imagery in other media such as weaving or drawing-seeks to be merely a reminder of a multidimensional universe in which there is no viewer per se, only participants” (Berlo 10). Created during a healing ritual, the images are used to summon spiritual beings who exist in the past, present, and future as well as in all directions (the four of the earth and the two of the sky towards the center of the earth) and who act on the individual who sits inside the painting (Berlo 10,11). When approached in this way, paintings on canvas would be experienced as having depth to those who are accustomed to viewing space as layered. The habitual act of looking at a painting or image from the center towards the sides as well as the top and bottom instead of straight on would have been second nature to Native-American artists. For Pop Chalee, this distinction would have made it challenging for Dunn to explain European ideals of three-dimensionality and even more difficult for Dunn or art collectors to recognize the multi-layered depictions presented to them. Either way, the style and form used by Studio school painters under Dunn’s guidance would still have been inherently rooted in a way of seeing images that existed before they were in school. The fact that non-Native art patrons were the greatest consumers of the images (Cesa 67) only compounded misunderstandings about the artists’ intentions.

Many of the misconceptions about Pop Chalee and others from Dunn’s Santa Fe Studio School are based on the analysis of the scholar J.J. Brody in his book Indian Painters and White Patrons written in 1971. Brody concludes that this initial foray into easel painting for Native Americans could never be authentic to the artists themselves. He argues that since they were taught by a non-Native and stood to make unprecedented amounts of money by selling their work to wealthy white customers, their only motivation would have been financial gain (Brody 190). As an expert on Native-American art and culture, he dismisses the Studio school as “fatally marred by subject dishonesty” (Brody 146). His demand of accuracy in ceremonial details, rejection of stylistic elements unique to the period, and honest sentiment from a culture he studied from the outside reveal a unique standard when judging Native-American art that is not apparent in expectations of the non-Native dominated art world at large at the time where creative license and non-realistic representation were the norm. Brody also states that Studio paintings were “decorative, but emotionally sterile, and lacked the saving grace of being informative” (Brody 146). Again, as part of his generation of critics, an ethnocentric bias meant that the works would be analyzed not only in comparison to the European canon but also to the European interpretation of Native-American traditional arts and crafts. Since easel painting was European, it would be impossible to categorize it as an authentic Native-American tradition anyway (Anthes Preface xv). It is precisely Brody’s attempt to position the work of Studio artists as rooted only in the past that prevents seeing them as active participants in a present time where the collision of two worlds produces something totally new.

Another theory about limitations to authenticity in Studio paintings comes from a Native-American art expert.  According to W. Jackson Rushing, an obstacle to viewing an artist like Pop Chalee as legitimately “Native” is the institutional environment where her works were created and sold (Rushing 7). He claims that it would be unlikely for a non-Native teacher like Dunn to produce artists who thought for themselves or felt comfortable painting what they wanted in an oppressive school environment that attempted to get rid of their Native side. To Rushing, the very nature of the Indian Schools was confining and therefore the art produced there could only be seen in light of that forceful discipline. Both Rushing’s and Brody’s arguments, however, fail to see artists as creative actors operating independently of their surroundings.

This alternate approach to the material is gaining steam among scholars, like McGeough, who rightly noticed that most research on the Studio school was conducted with little or no input from the Native-American artists themselves (McGeough 11). Others, like Van Ness Seymour, who compiled a book of interviews with Native-American artists, note that while art collectors and critics at the time praised the paintings, they never actually understood what they were looking at (Van Ness Seymour 21). The research of Native-American art scholar Newsome is a convincing unraveling of Brody’s theories that treat the Native-American artist as “passive recipients of influences that first destroyed the authenticity of their true identities and then replaced them with fictions that would prove equally destructive” (Newsome 110). Artists bring their personal point of view to their work whether they want to or not, why would Native-American artists be any different? How, indeed, would a Studio school artist take on the exact point of view of Dunn or other white art patrons like a blank slate and replicate them without their own identity involved in the process? Newsome concludes that it would be impossible and that to assume otherwise incorrectly puts Native-American artists in an inferior position. Instead, she describes an individual “aesthetic experience” based on the artists’ own “subjectivities of memory, viewership, and self-awareness” (Newsome 136). In this way, Chalee’s life and work provide ample material to re-consider the Studio school movement from her point of view and start a new discussion of authenticity and purpose from within the Native-American community instead of from outside of it.

Moreover, if the theory that the style and content of the paintings were inherently based on Native-American beliefs and experiences is convincing, then the presentation of those images to a Non-native public would have felt highly personal to the artists. Some of Chalee’s early works, two untitled paintings from 1935-36, have such a unique look and feel, that it would be a stretch to conclude the artist herself had nothing to do with it. One painting features two deer, a tree, and a bushy tailed squirrel [Figure 2] and the other is of two buffalo [Figure 3] (McGeough 135). Both images have a central element in the middle, dual semi-symmetric objects to the right and left, generous white space, and harmonious colors that distribute attention equally around the picture at once. The lines and lack of shading produce a flat, two-dimensional image, however, one can imagine a different spatial relationship when the six directional Native-American concept is applied. Chalee’s consideration of subject matter that meant something to her, but didn’t betray her community’s secrets in presenting the images to a non-Native buying public radiates through the works. The open canvases reveal the gap between Chalee and the culture she was confronted with at the Indian School and a futile attempt to translate her cosmology to an audience who looked at the world in a different way. The alienation of that effort has remained ever present in her works that were nonetheless dismissed as empty of Native-American authenticity.  In the end, the tension created by this defines her work and validates Chalee as a Native-American artist producing some of the first paintings of their kind in the world.

Ultimately, the tendency to encapsulate the Santa Fe Studio school movement of the 1930s within the commercial art market, the oppressive institutional norms that it came out of, or the European viewing standard has left out the voices of those who matter most.  Ideas about what constitutes authentic Native-American expression need to have a starting point in the notion that Native people live in the present time and are part of a living and active culture that, although rooted in ancient traditions, is continuously in flux. This is true of todays Native-American community and it was the case when Pop Chalee learned to paint on canvas and created hundreds of images of deer and other forest animals that connected her to the sacred nature of her religion and even helped produce the iconic imagery of Disney’s Bambi. It is important to remember she did both at the same time. This ability to exist in multiple worlds at once and to interpret that experience into a body of work and, indeed, an entire art movement situates the Studio school as a vital link between Native-American beliefs and traditions, multi-layered visual space on flat surfaces, and the changing identity that resulted from entering a non-Native art market. Including the intentions and experiences of artists like Pop Chalee fills in the blank spaces in a way that respects her active role as an individual and creative being.