Hello and welcome! I created this blog with the goal of making Native America art writing and art history more accessible to a wider audience, especially indigenous artists. Is Native American art a small, recent addition to the art world? Absolutely not. Native American art extends back at the very least 13,000 years and spans two continents—from the southernmost people in the world, the Yaghan of Tierra del Fuego, to the Inughuit of Polar Greenland, the northernmost people of the world. The Native art world is older, newer, richer, and stronger than art literature has yet been acknowledged. I support a hemispheric approach to Native art, because cultural exchanges constantly happen between North and South American, and have for centuries — after all, where did tobacco originate?
Many exciting developments are happening in the Native art world — new institutions, new scholarship, more and more Native peoples earning higher degrees are publishing. The theoretical framework may not yet in place to make sense of the dizzying diversity of Native arts, but that should not hold anyone back from appreciating the amazing works from the part and present and making contributions towards an indigenous art theory that can encompass all Native arts, not just the most Westernized.
Hybrid artists tend to get written about when the critics or the audience is non-Native, but we should also celebrate those artists who provide art for their own tribes, especially those artists whose creations are used in our ceremonies, dances, and community events. An art theory that ignores traditionalists and the core people that hold our tribes together is not a Native American art theory.
For those Native artists whose chosen audience is the non-Native art world, perhaps they can find allies among historical theorists and writers of the Western art canon, such as Ferdinand Saussure, Herbert Marcuse, or André Malraux, and present their art within these people’s theoretical context? It’s a matter of providing familiar ground that the audience can relate to, much in the same way many Native painters employ pop iconography as an entré for non-Native people into the work.
Many institutions in the Native art community are governed by people who simply do not have an art background. So a great deal of discussion about Native art is governed by hand-me-down notions of art that have been abandoned by Post-modern art institutions in the last few decades. We do not live in the Modern Era — that ended over a half century ago, so there’s no need to try to hamstring Native art today with outmoded ideas of universality, formalism, or Eurocentricism.
Above all, it’s good to remember that art is subjective. We’re all going to have wildly different views, but this diversity of opinion, experience, and perspective makes for a richer dialogue about Native arts. I’m going to strive to present artists who are off the beaten path, including artists who have found success outside of the gallery and market framework. Any writing or information about Greenlandic or Latin American indigenous art would be very welcome!
To get things rolling, I have summarized the different essays in [Re]inventing the Wheel: Advancing the Dialogue on Contemporary American Indian Art, which presents many of the dominant themes and obstacles with which Native art writers are currently wrestling.
Here's to the start of a great discussion!
America Meredith (Cherokee Nation)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
A note about images: Images that appear on this blog are either ones that I hold the copyright to (my own art or photographs) or are public domain or have Creative Commons or GNU licenses obtained from Wikimedia Commons or Flickr. Any copyrighted images from other artists will limited to those reposted with permission or are part of a review (Landes 6). Images in art show reviews fall under the doctrine of fair use. The site will fully comply with international copyright laws.
• Landes, William M. “Copyright, Borrowed Images, and Appropriation Art: An Economic Approach.” George Mason Law Review. Fall 2000.