Contemporary American Indian paintings from the Margretta S


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CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN INDIAN
PAINTINGS
FROM THE MARGRETTA S. DIETRICH
COLLECTION
^£B 1 3 J985
Made available by the American Embassy

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We take great pleasure in welcoming
you to this exhibit of contemporary American Indian paintings from the
Margretta S. Dietrich collection.
Notes on the artists and a listing of the works on display are given in the back portion of this pamphlet.
We hope you will enjoy this exhibit.

American Indian Paintings
by Dorothy Dunn
Curator of the Margretta S. Dietrich Collection of Contemporary Indian Painting

This exhibition is comprised of paintings by cotemporary American Indian artists, most of
whom live in the ancient pueblos (villages) of
the semi-arid Southwest area of the United States.
A small number of works represent the Great
Plains region of the Missouri River Valley and the Woodland area east of that.
The paintings, while modern in general appearance and individually inventive, derive from the
oldest painting traditions in America. Prehistor-
ic works have contributed to these timely ex-
pressions from many sources such as pictographs,
pottery motifs, ceremonial murals, sand-paintings, and hide paintings. Imaginative use of the
old material combined with recent experiences has resulted in new interpretations of abstract designs and more objective views of ceremonial and secular life.
Brush and spray techniques used in these pictures were natively developed with earth colors in prehistoric times. Flat painted surfaces and linear patterns in opaque colors have been characteristic of American Indian painting for centuries.
Paintings from the Southwest include works by artists of the Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache
tribes of New Mexico and Arizona. From the
Pueblo Tribe, the village dwellers, come con-
ventionally ordered portrayals of ceremonials of growth, harvest, and the hunt; seminaturalistic genre scenes; decorative flora and fauna; and old abstract figures which once symbolized prayers
for rain. Corn and Gourd dancers display designs and gestures symbolic of rain, and even
the "Shinny Game" illustrates a seed fertility ceremony for the fields. Many paintings of ani-
— mals or animal impersonators buffalo, deer, — turtle, and various birds emphasize the impor-
tance of game animals and rain-associated crea-

tures to Pueblo life. The Pueblo pantheon of
supernatural characters is introduced in a strik-
ing cast of masked Katcinas, the Kossa, and
Koshare, all impersonators. Aboriginal abstract designs emerge in such compositions as "Hunter"
and "Rainbow God," each showing cloud and rain symbols, among others.
Navajo paintings show the most important figures, the Yei (gods), who participate in the Yeibicai, the great communal healing ceremonial. "JM'da-a" depicts another principal rite, one of semi-social aspect involving hundreds of participants. The Navajo's beloved sheep and horses characteristically appear in these works. Small glimpses of mountain spots in the vast, rugged Navajo country are idealized in two scenes.
The once nomadic Apache Tribe is pictured in the camp and battle-field of old. Even though long settled on government reservations, the Apaches still recount in paintings and ceremon-
ies the events of their roving days. Plains artists, too, still stylistically influenced
by paintings once made on buffalo hides, depict views of war parties and tribal exploits. The eagle, sacred to all North American tribes, is still dram-
atized in Plains tribal dances such as seen in Keahbone's dramatic eagle figure.
Painting in the Woodland area is not a tradi-
tion of depth, although the usually quiet, decor-
ative character of Woodland design in other media has influenced modern pictorial developments. Both ceremonies and genre scenes are favorite subjects of today's Woodland painters.
The contemporary artists are not the Indians popularly known through historical account and
folklore. Neither are they the Indians of anthro-
pological record. Most of them have been well educated in American schools and colleges. Very

few have had regular art courses, akhough the
majority have participated in creative Indian art
A — — developments in the Santa Fe Indian School. number perhaps seven or eight are entirely
self-advanced as painters.
Some artists have chosen to remain on the tribal
reservations. Particularly is this true of the Pueblo
Indians whose agrarian life in many respects is
basically Uke that preceding the Spanish conquest, even though the native pattern does alter in degrees varying with outer pressures and dominant
influences. Others move in the general stream of American life while retaining a knowledge and
appreciation of their distinctive cultural heritage. Although all might paint in international styles,
these artists prefer to offer to American art contributions uniquely their own, and which they

know would be forever lost should they not do so. The modern school had its first indications in
drawings and paintings on paper and cloth done by Plains Indians at the close of the buffalo era when hides ceased to be available. Dynamic renderings of battles, memoirs of inter-tribal exploits, and nostalgic reminiscences of youth and childhood in the old free days gave rise to a new art that had suddenly departed from ceremonial dictate or utilitarian purpose, but which served mainly as an expression of the individual for himself. However, not having been recognized as art, most of these early works were destroyed in the tumultuous ending of traditional Plains life. Fortunately, a considerable number of the pictures, collected mainly by army personnel as curiosa found their way into museums.

Coshare with Corn Dance Pole. 1939
BEN QUINTANA
Ben Quintana, when he was fifteen years old was the winner of the American Youth Prize awarded by the American Magazine of Art.
He was chosen for this $1,000 prize in com-
petition with 50,000 contestants. His un-
timely death in the World War II battle of
Leyte prevented his accepting a scholarship to Stanford University.

ALLAN HO USER
Allan Houser, one of the first graduates of the U.S. Indian School, is currently the head of its painting and sculpture
classes. Among his many prizes are a Guggenheim Fellow-
ship, the American Society of Medalists Award, and the
French Palmes Academiques. He has had several one-man
shows and is the illustrator of several books.
Leaving Camp. 193'

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Contemporary American Indian paintings from the Margretta S