Shields as Art: Selections from the Taylor A. Dale Collection
2012 Shields as Art
2012 Shields as Art
A woven fiber shield from the Congo, purchased in London in 1978, was the beginning... Taylor A. Dale, also known as Tad, has been a collector since childhood, fascinated by natural history, coins, antiques, and then tribal art. Arriving in London in 1977 with plans to travel overland to Central Asia for a second time, Tad & his wife Sandy soon found that treasures from the days of the British Empire were still available in the market places of the United Kingdom. The Asian trip was put on hold, and new discoveries revealed the world of tribal arts from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Tad already had an interest in North American Indian basketry, and when he saw the African shield finely crafted from natural fibers, it was an easy transition.
He began to look at shields as textile art, sculpture and painting, and started adding more shields as they became available, including a wide range of types from Africa, Oceania, & Indonesia. He was selective in his collecting, with rarity, age, condition, visual quality and provenance in mind. Many shields were coming onto the market in the 1970s and early 1980s, as attics emptied their treasures from the days of the British Empire.
Ten years later in 1987, Tad brought the collections to Santa Fe, where he opened a gallery of fine tribal art on the Plaza. An ongoing passion, Tad has kept a personal collection of shields for more than 30 years as well as offering them in his gallery.
2012 celebrates twenty-five years with a gallery in Santa Fe, and seems a fitting occasion to present a portion of
Tad's Shield Collection.
The selections in this exhibition feature shields from Africa, Indonesia, New Guinea, and the rest of island
Melanesia, showing the diversity of geography, materials and design. You will see shields made of carved wood,
woven basketry, and decorated hide. The material foundations of the shields serve as the canvas for the art of
the shield — from Africa's abstraction and geometric patterns, to New Guinea's carved and painted curvilinear
and figurative motifs. You will notice we have displayed the backs of some shields — often as beautiful as the
front — and serving as an empowerment for the bearer.
Also, Tad will display three collections within the collection — comparisons amongst the fiber shields of the
Congo, the varied painting styles of the Masai hide shields from Kenya, and a group of wood shields from the
Dayak of Borneo.
Shields are often thought of as protection in warfare, however, in tribal societies, they also were seen as status
objects showing that males had reached the age of initiation into adult society. They were also used in dance, as
display, often within a large group.
Shields aided in defining the social order of tribal life. In many cases only the highest ranked members of their
societies could own them, and only the wealthiest could afford the finest quality of workmanship. Classical and
traditional elements are found in the artistic creation of the shield, although each is a unique work of art.