The “Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberian and Alaska” exhibition, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the Soviet Institute of Ethnography in 1990, highlighted indigenous cultures of Siberia and far northwestern North America. The Crossroads of Continents belt shows five Siberian and five Alaskan figures separated by silver and scrimshaw oval elements. Each of the ten individual figures portrays a distinct people: the Koryak, Even, Chukchi, Yukaghir and Nanai from Siberia, and the Alaskan Inupiat, Aleut, Kodiak Alutiiq, Northern Athabascan and Tlingit from Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia.
Excerpt from Arctic Transformations, The Jewelry of Denise and Samuel Wallace by Lois Sherr Dubin, 2005
The Crossroads belt was created in 1990 in our studio in Santa Fe, NM. I wanted to create a belt that spoke from my heart about the pride I feel as a native person from an arctic land. The exhibition “Crossroads of the Continents” spoke to me in a way that sparked that pride. When I first saw the Crossroads exhibit, I was inspired by the detail of the garments. All the painstaking hours and thoughtful use of the materials gave me a wonderful feeling of pride. My vision was to create an arc of the different tribes from Siberia across to Southeastern Alaska in their different but similar traditional garments. This piece is an expression of appreciation and pride for these northern people, my ancestors.
Denise Wallace 2000
The Crossroads of Continents belt is a work of singular beauty, a total tour de force-yet a private and deeply personal homage to peoples with a common lineage of sixteen thousand years. “It didn’t come to me at the time of first seeing the exhibition,” says Wallace, “but five or six months later, I started to work on the designs. I wanted to put so much into these piece. I wanted them to be a tribute to my own culture and to the connections the exhibition was making.”
Taking the greater part of 1990, it is estimated that approximately twenty-five hundred hours were spent executing the belt. Working towards its completion was an arduous creative journey. Wallace describe the physical and emotional voids left from such an enormous undertaking as unlike any artistic experience she has yet encountered and the exhaustion as numbing, unfolding like waves.
The personal intensity and drive it took to complete the Crossroads of Continents belt is a too rare instance of artistic collaboration transcending individual ego to produce a work of lasting cultural and creative importance.
Excerpts from Ornament Magazine Winter 1991
For the full version of Ornament’s Article
I will be showing this belt along with two other belts and numerous other pieces FOR SALE at the Collector’s Courtyard in the Hotel de Chimayo, 125 Washington Street, Santa Fe, NM. Look for the Waddell Group on the first floor. I’ll be showing with my friend, Dorothy Grant, the premier Haida fashion designer on August 15 & 16 from 10AM-5PM and August 17 & 18 from Noon-5PM
Please visit my website for more information