Daily Art Moment: Bertha Harvey

Flag rug, Bertha Harvey, 30 x 60 inches, wool. A woven American flag in traditional colors of bright red, white, and dark blue. The flag has thirteen alternating red and white horizontal stripes with a rectangle of dark blue in the upper-left corner containing fifty stars in rows. The edges are whip stitched with red yarn and the corners end in four strands of knotted red yarn.

“Flags are potent symbols, especially at times like these where we are all thinking about voting in the next election. The shadow of the historically brutal and fraught relationship between Native people and the United States government gives this particular design poignancy in a Native-made artwork. Native American artists have long been attracted to the design of the American flag with its bold stripes and primary colors. This flag has appeared in beadwork and rug designs for over a century, and more recently in contemporary art. Bertha Harvey is a Navajo weaver who used this design to create a beautiful textile that can be interpreted from multiple perspectives, including as a statement of patriotism. The image of this work, in addition to the weaving itself, has also been utilized in the work of other Native American artists as critical commentary.

For example, Demian DinéYazhi’ utilized Harvey’s weaving (upside down) in an installation for the 2016 exhibition, Dene bāhī Naabaahii, a two-person exhibition with Kali Spitzer. There is no doubt that it will continue to be a potent symbol for Native artists for decades to come.”

Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art

Bertha Harvey (American and Navajo, born 1955). Flag Rug, 1991. Wool. Gift of Mr. Robert W. Patton, Jr., 2001.72

A photograph of a gallery interior featuring works of art and a large skylight window. The skylight window is at center top and extends halfway down the photo. The room has angled ceilings and walls that jut out into the room. On the wall space to the right of the skylight is an image of a stack of books that reaches from floor to the top of the double height ceiling. Some titles are: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Red Power Rising. The Sacred Hoop, One Nation Under the Sun, Survivance and Yellow Dirt. To the far right and hanging on the wall is Bertha Harvey’s “Flag Rug.’ This woven, wool depiction of the American flag is hung upside down with the stars at bottom. In the center of the room is a free-standing pedestal with an acrylic enclosure containing a Native American basket and another artwork shown from the back. Behind the pedestal and below the skylight there is a video monitor showing a green landscape and a square portrait surrounded by text. The artist’s name, Demian DinéYazhi', is on the wall above a large wall label. At far left, six black-and-white portraits hang in three rows of two each. The gallery walls are white and the carpet is beige.
Installation view of Dene bāhī Naabaahii: Demian DinéYazhi’ and Kali Spitzer (March 19–August 28, 2016)

Related Content