so much has been left out of this series. there's been no mention of genocide or theft, though those are surely in the background when we mention national parks, for example.
we haven't talked about the marginalization of nations who were relegated to the position of being 'bad guys' in the 'westerns' which had started filming in 1903.
what we have talked about was beauty, and cultural transference, and best intentions, and, sometimes, best results.
we have talked about many of the similarities between the paintings from the first half of the 20th century done by american indians to those edo era prints from japan: outlines, areas of flat color, image simplification.
we haven't mentioned the effects on their art of giving new art materials to the native tribe members; i missed commenting on the fact that in none of the traditional indian paintings do we see 'close-ups'; like fred astaire the indians would only dance when their whole body showed.
that somehow the grimaces, the revealed faces, that we see in the kabuki actor portraits are there in the work of the indians painting today. that many of them retain some of these elements we've discussed, that they are, in my opinion, some of the most extraordinarily gifted artists working today. that, by and large, the work from the native artists is seen as genre painting, and is ignored in the major international art universe.
oscar howe was a yanktonai indian and student at the santa fe studio school. a letter he wrote in 1958 illustrated, all too clearly, one of the effects this marginalization:
"Are we to be held back forever with one phase of Indian painting that is the most common way? Are we to be herded like a bunch of sheep, with no right for individualism, dictated to as the Indian has always been, put on reservations and treated like a child and only the White Man know what is best for him... but one could easily turn to become a social protest painter. I only hope the Art World will not be one more contributor to holding us in chains."
see some of rick bartow's gorgeous work here
. see fritz scholder here
. there's so much online, in museums around the country, and here
i've surely left out much, but i've learned a lot doing this. i hope it's been interesting for you. i guess it's like this whenever you undertake to learn something new: what you end up with are tears of sadness and a heart filled with wonder.