July 15, 2007

Heard:  Indian culture keeps changing

Gorgeous new Heard North an enlightening destinationThe current, longstanding exhibit is "Choices and Change: American Indian Artists in the Southwest," which gently makes a case the main Heard Museum has been making for years: Native American culture is dynamic, not static. Indians live in the same 21st century you and I live in.

There's a fine line the Heard has always had to walk: The busloads of tourists come primarily to see what they call "traditional" Indian art and culture, as if there was once an idealized Indian who has now been subverted and deracinated by European culture.

But the staff and management of the Heard know two vital truths. First, there never was a traditional culture: Every Indian group has been changing and reacting to change since prehistory. Second, Indians continue to evolve and react to their environment, just as everyone does.

It's part of the Heard's mission to knock some of the quaintness off being an Indian and instead humanize them. They are, after all, people, not symbols.


Anonymous said...

As an afficionado of "outside" artists, I had little interest in native art - seeing it as the "quaint" and static art form which the Heard Museum is capably disputing. I changed my mind when I met - and began collecting - art created by Douglas Miles of the San Carlos Apache. What an eye opener. I was further blown away when introduced by Sarah Sense of the American Indian Community House here in NYC and shown the latest exhibit there...and at the Smithsonian at the tip of Long Island. Indian art is brilliant...and the more exposure given it the better.

Rob said...

I wouldn't say Indian art is better than other kinds of art, but it isn't worse either. If I had the space, I could fill my place with Indian art and be happy.