The Sensual Web is a portrait of Moses Ground, who, at the turn of the last century, was a Seneca chief from the Tonawanda Reservation, near Niagara Falls, New York. The spider motif on the beaded bag he is wearing may have had personal significance to the woman who made it.
In our society, many people have a fear of spiders but to many tribal people around the world, they are considered sacred. The Bhil people of India believe that the spirits of their ancestors live on in the bodies of spiders. The Chibchas of South America believe that the souls of their departed ancestors use the webs of spiders to cross the river that divides the world of the living from the world of the dead. And the Pueblo and Navajo peoples in the American southwest have a great myth about Spider Woman, the first being in the world who created all the other beings and connected them to her through the threads of her web.
In Gerry’s portrait of Moses Ground, the forest behind him represents a living entity in which all the elements are connected by the intangible threads that form the webs of life. It is from this wellspring that many Native artists draw their inspiration.