Sierra Teller Ornelas, Diné (Navajo), born 1981 

Forbidden Love

  • January–July 2009
  • Wool and vegetable dye
  • Overall: 24 × 34 1/4 in.

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Purchased through the Alvin and Mary Bert Gutman ’40 Acquisitions Fund; 2009.54

visibilityLook & Discuss

Diné (Navajo) artist Sierra Teller Ornelas learned to weave from her mother and grandmother. (The work of her mother, Barbara Ornelas, is featured in the Economics section of this site.) Cultural knowledge is often passed down in this way, from mother to daughter and father to son. This work, titled Forbidden Love, is made up of two weavings. It was woven in the traditional way, but the imagery is new.

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Sierra Teller Ornelas describes her work in this way:

I call it Forbidden Love [because] it was inspired by my then boyfriend… I was feeling pretty whimsical in high school about our relationship and wanted to make something that was like the doodles you draw on your notebook when you really like someone. It’s also a nod to interracial dating (he is white, I am not) and the trepidation that that brings, hence them being in those little boxes that resemble the one in the video game… One ghost is green and the other is purple. They are thinking about each other but they don’t know that. Only you as the viewer can see what they are thinking about.
I would call it a contemporary Diné tapestry… I am weaving a traditional way because I’m weaving something that’s a reflection of the time I live in. In that way, it’s traditional. This is my landscape, my pop culture landscape, the one I interact with every day.
The thing that I would like to impart is that I hope my work and the work of a lot of new weavers motivates the general public to see Diné weaving as an art form. Many people have a postcard picture of who weavers are—women sitting in front of a Hogan weaving under a tree—but more often than not we’re weaving in an air-conditioned house, hopped up on coffee and listening to cable TV while we weave into the night. But I hope that whether you’re looking at a rug made one hundred years ago or last month, know that it was made by someone with a sense of style and artistic vision and in many cases someone with a sense of humor and a strong opinion about the world around them. (Artist interview, 2010)

Native American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art

meet the artist

Image 34 Ornelas.jpg

Sierra Teller Ornelas is a weaver from a family of weavers. Her grandmother, mother, and brother are all weavers. She is also a producer and screenwriter, best known for her work on Happy Endings, Superstore, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. 


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Watch the video A Loom with a View: Modern Navajo Weavers, produced by Sierra Ornelas and Justin Thomas for the Arizona State Museum, to see contemporary weavers at work.


Southwest: Gender Roles & Family