Daily Art Moment: Umatilla artist

Berry bag, Umatilla artist, commercial dyes, buckskin and cotton, size: 10 x 5 ¼ inches in diameter. A tall, cylindrical, woven basket with the image of a portrait surrounded by a black checkerboard pattern. The figure is positioned at the center of the basket, showing the head and upper body. The individual has long black hair, black eyes and brows, and a golden yellow face. Two rose-colored necklaces adorn an off-white shirt. A dark green bar runs along the bottom of the figure. The body of the basket is lilac and the black checkerboard pattern surrounds the figure with two rows of check at top and sides and three rows at bottom. The rim of the basket is covered in a brown corduroy fabric. Two buckskin ties are seen knotted at the back of the rim.

“This bright and cheery ‘Berry Bag’ is part of a much larger tradition of twined bags among tribes in the Columbia Plateau region and are known as ‘Sally Bags.’ The Portland Art Museum has many of these bags which were made in many shapes and sizes, reflecting their use as utilitarian items used for all manner of purposes, including gathering berries. These were not created as mundane practical objects but were also expressions of beauty. The makers used available materials: from natural fibers such as cornhusks and other organic sources, and later, cotton and yarn. Bold color and geometric designs adorn these bags, but this is the first one I have seen with a portrait. You can see other older bags with more typical designs and materials below. The brown corduroy rim was probably repurposed from used clothing and may have made this object even more personal for the original user.”

Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art

Umatilla artist. Berry Bag, 1920/1940. Commercial dyes, buckskin, and cotton. The Elizabeth Cole Butler Collection, 2012.92.21

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