February 19, 2009

Blackfeet paintings, photos, and operas

New OKC exhibits feature Blackfeet IndiansPaintings and photographs of Blackfeet Indians, riders on horseback and big-sky landscapes fit most people’s expectations of artwork they would find at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Blackfeet split-horn headdress, circa 1890, from the exhibit "Guardians of Glacier Park: The Blackfeet in Artistic Imagination.” Horned headdresses were popular with Blackfeet men in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But the opera playing in the Robert S. and Grayce B. Kerr Gallery probably doesn’t sound particularly Western to most modern-day art lovers.

"As bizarre as it sounds to us, there was this race on at the beginning of the 20th century by composers to create what was uniquely American music before jazz became jazz,” said Steve Grafe, the museum’s curator of American Indian art. "So, there are actually in the first two, three decades of the 20th century a dozen or more operas that are based on American Indian stories and music.”

Music from the opera "Poia: The Blackfeet Legend of Scarface” accompany the museum’s new exhibit "Guardians of Glacier Park: The Blackfeet in Artistic Imagination,” featuring photos, paintings, clothing and advertising art such as calendars, matchbooks and playing cards.
Comment:  For more on Native operas, see Review of Ponca Opera and Native Music = Symphonies and Operas.

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