Euro-American traditions of landscape art tend to work differently from those of Native peoples, often picturing the land from afar as a space to behold. James Doolin (1932 – 2002) carefully studied the landscape to create Bridges (1989), spending a week at the off-ramp from the 110 Freeway to Interstate 5 in Los Angeles. Using principles that originated in European painting, Doolin designed an expansive vista in which a vast space is seen from a single vantage point. The small figure in the foreground — intended as a stand-in for the artist or viewer — also appears in many traditional landscape paintings. By applying these motifs to 20th Century Los Angeles, Doolin refers to the power of historical images in shaping our modern experience of place.
Photographed in the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles.
This elaborately Beaded Vest (2013) was inspired by the catalogs for the Burpee Seed Company, an online purveyor of gardening supplies. Whereas much Native American beadwork features flat, abstract designs, Marcus Amerman (Choctaw, Born 1959) stitches each bead individually, alternating colors to create three-dimensional effects. The result is vivid imagery that leaps off the surface and defies our expectations of the medium.
Although the realism and commercial source of Amerman’s imagery are nontraditional, floral imagery has a long history within Native North American beadwork as an art form and a symbol of cultural resilience. Floral imagery emerged as a mainstay of beadwork during the fur trade, when beaded horse gear, bags, and clothing found a ready market among non-Native traders and settlers. As Native groups were disrupted and displaced by expansion, disease and war, floral imagery retained symbolic meaning known only to tribes, forming a visual language capable of surviving the destructive forces of empire.
Photographed in the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, CA.
Teri Greeves (b. 1970) is a member of the Kiowa Native American tribe, and her culture deeply influences her work. Khoiye-Goo Mah (2004) translates in the Kiowa language as “Kiowa women,” and four Kiowa women are depicted on these sneakers: the artist’s grandmother and mother, both skillful bead workers who taught artist this traditional craft,; her aunt, the first female fancy war dancer in the state of Oklahoma, and spiritual woman, who had the honor of naming the artist.
Artist LJ Roberts offers the following input on the piece: “Converse hi-tops have long been a part of my everyday life. I’ve modified them as a means of personal expression, and for years they have been the surface on which I move and travel. Khoiye-GoodMah integrates matrilineal skill sharing, craft, movement, and Independence. To converse it to communicate, and to also reverse or revert; Greeves’ artwork does this in rich and complex layers.”
Photographed in the Museum of Ats and Design in Manhattan
The Indian Chief Roadmaster was designed as a handsome, comfortable rival to Harley-Davidson’s heavyweight touring bikes as Americans took to the road in the years following World War II. Indian’s top model, the Chief Roadmaster (1948) exuded power and style. Note the Indian Head on the front fender as well as the custom-fringed leatherwork. Now, imagine how it would look flying in the wind as the bike speeds toward the horizon!
Photographed in the Autry Museum pf the American West in Los Angeles, California.
These boots combine the traditional technique of beadwork with modern fashion in an entirely contemporary way. To create them, artist Teri Greeves (Kiowa, Native American, born 1970), elaborately embellished the pair of high-heeled sneakers designed by Steve Madden with imagery significant to the Great Lakes tribes.
One side shows the tribes’ designs and the other, contemporary jingle-dress dancers who perform at powwows. Greeves’ innovative work connects her with the long tradition of female beadwork artists who fulfilled this important role within their culture.