Indigenous silverwork has long been highly sought after, dating back to as early as the 1850s. Elegant Vessels: A Century of Southwest Silver Boxes showcases these stunning works of art, spanning almost a century. By the late 1800s, silver jewelry predominated, but other silver forms included functional items such as tobacco canteens and powder chargers. Silver boxes were a later addition, with the earliest known box created around 1908. Over the past century, Indigenous artists brought silver boxes to a new level of expertise. While maintaining their utilitarian aspect as a secondary function, boxes have become a venue for social commentary and personal expression through sculptural and artistic excellence. The exhibition features more than 75 boxes, from early works dating to c. 1914 through commissioned works made in 2022. The exhibition includes the artistry of Leo Poblano (Zuni Pueblo), Leekya Deyuse (Zuni Pueblo), Kenneth Begay (Diné), Paul Saufkie (Hopi), Morris Robinson (Hopi) and Fred Peshlakai (Diné).
The exhibition is curated by Robert Bauver, a specialist in historical silver jewelry and metalwork who recently curated the Heard Museum’s exhibition Southwest Silverwork: 1850-1940. “This exhibition offers visitors the unique opportunity to view the technical and stylistic evolution of Native-made silver boxes over the past 100 years from simple utilitarian containers to outstanding works of the jeweler’s art,” shared Bauver.