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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Last night's meeting of the Bead Society of Greater New York included a very entertaining talk by Cody Harjo entitled "Blending History and the Contemporary in Indian Beadwork." Cody is a contemporary beadwork artist of Seminole, Otoe, Creek, Cherokee, and Iowa heritage. She was raised in Oklahoma, but now works for the National Museum of the American Indian in the George Gustav Heye Center in Manhattan ( and resides in Brooklyn.

Cody gave us a brief history of beadwork in relation to the Native American life but concentrated on her life as a beadwork artist working within tradition but also striving to add a personal stamp to her pieces. The most stunning example of the mixture of tradition and modernity was her version of the bandolier bag shown at the left and below. She depicts her environment of the city and adds a cat with an umbrella, a polar bear, clouds, and a turtle.

The strap contains images of snakes and alligators. I won't attempt to go through the symbolism but it is an outstanding example of mixing the old and the personal in her artwork.

Cody brought actual examples of her work for us to examine and the crowd around the table with her beadwork never abated. I managed to snap these few photos around the crowd.

The next two photos are pendants.

This last photo is another example of Cody's mixing old an new elements. The pattern is a traditional Otoe pattern that Cody has modified and the new is the purple beads that cover a lot of the surface.


  1. I wish I could have been there. Sounds like a great presentation. I love the mixed modern/old themes in particular. Thanks for sharing the photos.

  2. It was very interesting because of the personal connection. I have read and heard lectures about antique Native American beadwork and interviewes with modern Indian beadwork artists but the combination of the two was new. It was a real treat to hear Cody explain "this came from my Otoe side of the family but this is how I made it mine." The bandolier bag depicting NYC was way cool!