Thursday, February 26, 2015

Survival and Change: The Significance of Contemporary American Indian Art

Timm Whissen
Dr. Christine Ballengee-Morris lecturing on Contemporary American Indian Arts: Including Earthworks. Image Courtesy of Timothy E. Black, DMIN Photography.
Dr. Christine Ballengee-Morris lecturing on Contemporary American Indian Arts: Including Earthworks. Image Courtesy of Timothy E. Black, DMIN Photography.
Dr. Christine Ballengee-Morris, Professor of Arts Administration, Education and Policy, and Coordinator of the American Indian Studies Program at the Ohio State University gave the first of three Newark Earthworks Center sponsored guest lectures titled, “Contemporary American Indian Arts: Including Earthworks.”

She proceeded to establish how contemporary American Indian art is a complex creation with specific symbols and meanings, the importance of American Indian Aesthetics, and how commonalities are still seen in the forms of identity, spirituality and power. 

While looking back on the history of American Indian art, Dr. Ballengee-Morris stated that, “Indigenous arts, historically, have either been relegated to anthropology or marginalized by European-derived systems of aesthetics.” 

By the 1880’s, American Indians were having rights and lands stripped from them, their identities reformed, and their image to the rest of the world simplified as being mere savages. Events like Wild Bill’s Wild West shows and artists like George Catlin or Charles M. Russell furthered these ideas for many years. Legislations of the time allowed for the blossoming of American Indian schools that sought to integrate Indian children into White society through reforms that wiped clean their Indian history and culture. 

Contemporary American Indian artists focus upon aspects of Identity, Spirituality, and Politics are important as they help create connections to the past, present, and future. Through these connections, artists like Brian Jungen or Louis Gong are able to ensure that American Indian traditions survive and change. By adapting to new circumstances, materials, and concepts; artists are able to look into the past and bring it forward for future inspiration. 

Dr. Ballengee-Morris discussed the roles of many contemporary American Indian artists today including: Teri Greeves, James Luna, Erica Lord, Will Wilson, Virgil Ortiz, Daniel Bigay, Terri Asbury and America Meredith. These artists have created a wide variety of art forms; each one unique and with its own meaning. Commonalities may exist within the narrative of these pieces, but each artist offers distinct messages to make people think of the past and to realize that the 19th century ideas of a vanishing peoples is far from the truth. 

Like the earthworks themselves, Contemporary American Indian art strives to convey messages of identity and cultural awareness, politics and spirituality to future generations. By reconnecting to the past and creating a better representation in the present, these artists are able to rewrite history in a way that better defines their culture and its significance in the shaping of these lands. 

For more information,
Visit:
Publications Include:
*Links provided require a sign in to EBSCO Host database. 
Ohio State University students can use their student log-in to access the database
Post a Comment