Central Valley Library Honors Native California Heritage

ACTA - Posted on 22 July 2009

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Master Yokuts basketweaver Lois Connor is featured in a new exhibit at California State University, Fresno’s Henry Madden Library, which uses state-of-the-art digital technology to bring a historic tradition to life in a genuine and realistic format. Photo Courtesy of FresnoState MagazineThe recent multi-million dollar renovation of California State University, Fresno’s Henry Madden Library includes exhibitions and architectural features that pay tribute to local Native Californian culture.  For three years, the University worked in consultation with the Table Mountain Rancheria Tribal Council and the Table Mountain Rancheria Cultural Resources Department to ensure the accuracy of the cultural heritage and history of the tribes of Central California that are represented throughout the new facilities.

In the first installation of its kind in the United States, basketweaver Lois Connor (Mono, Chukchansi) is featured in a real-time video showing the weaving of a traditional gaming tray from start to finish.  Filmed over 12 months, the installation is the longest performance art film ever made.  The installation features a 700-square foot transparent screen, visible from both inside and outside the library, on which footage of Connor weaving is shown.  Inside the library, LCD displays feature close-up high quality digital images, showcasing Connor’s facial features, hands, and the basket; over time, visitors are able to watch the basket’s various phases of development.  (Lois Connor is a previous master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program.)

California State University, Fresno's Henry Madden Library's new exhibit features master artist Lois Connor weaving a traditional gaming tray - similar to the one she is holding here - from start to finish. Courtesy of Lois Connor.The new library also features architectural and landscape elements that reflect local Native Californian cultures.  The Table Mountain Rancheria Tower, a five-story elliptical structure of steel, glass, and angled wood lattice, was inspired by and designed to look like a twined cooking basket.  The Tower’s granite entryway is an artistic replication of a stair-step basket pattern; the design was laid stone by stone to ensure the pattern’s accuracy.  Outside, the Native Plant Garden features indigenous plants, trees, and grasses used in traditional basket-making processes.  The Garden is surrounded by granite walls, into which the names of plants and basket-making tools are etched in the Western Mono, Yokuts, and English languages.  When the garden is mature, traditional harvest and related celebrations will take place there.  Throughout the library, other design elements such as woven metal and custom fabric coverings evoke the intricacy of a basket and replicate deer hoof, butterfly, and stair-step basket patterns.

Article courtesy of FresnoState Magazine and Cynthia Teniente-Matson, Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer at California State University, Fresno.

For more information about Lois Connor and Yokuts basketry, visit Connor’s website.  For more information about the Henry Madden Library, including hours and tour options, visit the Library’s website.

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