Monday, June 1, 2015

Art of the Plains Indians - Then and Now

It was with great surprise that I found myself visiting the exhibit, The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, at the Metropolitan Museum last month. I have always loved the beauty and mystery surrounding Native American art forms. In the works I have seen, there is a constant striving to capture the voice of history. While animals and nature are strongly used, I have found that if you look close enough, you will see that each work is a story about a people, a hope, a defeat or a victory that is being told using these elements. The Plains Indians were (and are) a people whose world is steeped in symbolism. The greatest thing about this exhibit is that it allows you to visit the pieces of the past before giving you the opportunity to view the artworks made by contemporary Native American artist (which comes at the end). It keeps it in historical perspective. As an artist, I love to use symbolism as a way to compose my work, so I understand and appreciate the way that it is used, whether in embroidering regalia or beading the travel case of a daughter (see below).

I have to give it to the MET curatorial staff. The vast gallery space that the work was placed in allowed the viewer to shift easily between the works without having to be guided by a strict linear direction of movement. I like that a lot. The dim lighting of the gallery, while used for archival reasons (to preserve colors most likely), added to the atmosphere of the space. I felt like I was walking through a chasm of history; where time stood still as life rushed by outside. It was both an enjoyable and relaxing experience and allowed me to take my time among the pieces.

 (left) Probably my favorite piece over all, this is an elaborately decorated infant board.... to carry those adorable little papoos!

With such interesting and thought provoking works of art, I only wish the MET could of held on to this exhibit a little longer. If you are in NYC and would like to view exhibits like this one, you can go to the National Museum of the American Indian! Personally, I could stay there for hours (if only my feet wouldn't 
 give out on me).


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