Re: PICS1 and 2: A Target to Shoot At

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Posted by James Allen on December 15, 1998 at 07:24:19:

In Reply to: PICS1 and 2: A Target to Shoot At posted by R. John Howe on December 15, 1998 at 05:57:47:

: With the exception of Marvin's contribution this morning, the responses that took up the questions I've offered have not so far been overwhelming. It may be possible to read Steve's introduction as an invitation to tangential posts, but that is not what I intended. I did hope for a conversation that would focus, at least in the initial round, on comparing our various findings from an effort to address the questions I posed about these specific pieces.

: It may also be that it is not entirely obvious how one might undertake the task assigned. Perhaps I should take my own medecine a bit to suggest concretely what I have in mind, and to provide a beginning target, so to speak, for others perhaps to shoot at. Here is my own analysis of the drawing of the images in PIC1 and PIC2.

: PIC1 is the kind of piece to which I think (without considering at all that it is composed of fragments) a goodly number of collectors would apply words like "primitive," "primal," and "archaic." It is Plate 38 in the Jack Cassin, Peter Hoffmeister volume, "Tent Band Tent Bag, 1988. Mr. Cassin, who is careful with language in this book, doesn't use any of these terms but he comes close. He says "The fragment in plate 38, gives us an idea of what Ersari ensis of the earliest period come from." He may have other indicators of age but it seems to me that he sees the drawing here as at least one of them. My own view of the drawing of this piece is that it is simply quite inexpert and crude. And I do not think this weaver has drawn this way for effect. I suspect that this is what she could do. I also think the irregularities her drawing as across the line at which I could experience them as "pleasing." I think PIC1 is a good example of what those who advocate "The Oops Thesis" rightly critique when they say that we sometimes attempt to turn vice into virtue in our eagerness to assert such things as age.

: PIC2 is Plate 38 in George O'Bannon's, "Vanishing Jewels, 1990. The drawing on this piece is extremely precise and regular and has the sophistication of the work of a settled weaver. It is saved, in my view, from mechanical perfection in part by the complexity of the design, in particular the use of the curled leaf border. This weaver has skillfully assembled a series of designs the layered complexity of which plays with the technical perfection of the drawing in each of them in a way that gives the overall piece real life for me. Despite its nearly hard-edged precision, this piece "speaks" to me. I think it will not be argued that the drawing in it is considerably superior to that in PIC1. I think it is also superor as a piece.

: As Steve says sometimes, fire when ready.

: Regards,

: John Howe

; I wouldn't pay much attention to jack Cassins' commentary concerning this collection. He himself has said that he wishes he had it to do over. The pieces he assembled for the book however should not be dismissed lightly. The ensi in plate one is the actual normal size of a yurt opening. It has an elem at both ends to extend its useful life. The most important iconography is the main elem panel,upper, and it is very archaic indicating the weavers connection to tradition. I believe what we have here is a first half 19th century ersari ensi which was almost certainly used as a door covering. In a traditional setting only a powerful rich guy would have had a nice pile door covering. Everyday coverings were much more likely felt. So this piece which probably has really nice color knowing Jack is an important example of a once in situ Ersari artifact. It is doubt less a rather rough looking weaving for that was its job, to do the hard work of being a door. Pic.#2 is of a village weaving done for sale. It is large regular and unendowed with the asymmetic inclusions which mark the charms and ensignia of a shaman. No real ensi will ever be found that is perfectly regular. Ensi's are doors and they are doors which can't be locked in the ordinary sense. The Turkoman no less than our selves feared the dark unknown. He consulted the shaman like a good Indian about what specific designs and interruptions to include in the ensi to ward off evil and danger. This was of supream importance. I have had some of americas best ensi,s and they have all been filled with charms and disruptions and primitive vitality. This piece does incorporate some very nice iconography and it is well executed but not really ethnographically interesting. Jim Allen

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