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American basket (Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
(Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Rediscovering the American Art of Baskets

“A Measure of the Earth: A Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets” opens at Renwick Gallery

Handmade baskets were a part of daily life throughout American history up until the 20th century. The quick rise of synthetic materials nearly extinguished the craft of basket weaving by midcentury.

But, the countercultural movement of the 1960s and '70s brought a revival to the craft. The baskets in “A Measure of the Earth: A Cole-Ware Collection of American Baskets” explore the restoration of traditional basketry in America during the past 50 years. The baskets in the exhibit were made between 1983 and 2011 by over 60 different basketmakers.

The baskets portray the indigenous, African and European weaving traditions that make up American basketry and are almost entirely made with natural materials that the basketmakers gathered by hand. “In their search for materials, basketmakers cultivate an enviable knowledge of the land. Each basket crafted from this knowledge provides not only a deep connection to place, but also a measure of the earth,” says Nicholas R. Bell, the Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator of American Craft and Decorative Art.

The exhibition opened October 4 and runs through December 8.

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