Montclair Art Museum

Montclair, NJ



Untamed Spirits: Animal Imagery in Native American Art


The Montclair Art Museum is pleased to announce a new Native American Art exhibition comprised of objects from its renowned collection. On February 13, 2000, Untamed Spirits: Animal Imagery in Native American Art will open with more than 70 pieces of Native American art and artifacts from major Native American societies across the country. Untamed Spirits celebrates the important Native American interplay between man and the natural world, focusing on the use of animal imagery in ancient and contemporary Native American art. (left: Gregory Lonewolf, Southwest/Santa Clara Pueblo, Miniature ceramic carving, c. 1980, clay, pigment, 1 x 1 inches, Gift of Thomas Snyder and Michael Tomlinson, 1999.4.17)

The exhibition is curated by Twig Johnson, Curator of Native American Art at The Montclair Art Museum, and is drawn in its entirety from The Montclair Art Museum's extensive permanent collection of Native American Art. Untamed Spirits will be on view through July 30, 2000.

Animals are common themes in historical and contemporary Native American art forms as they were believed to possess characteristics capable of empowering humans through their depiction on utilitarian objects, clothing, adornments and ritual objects. Whether molded from clay, carved into animal horns, woven of grasses or wool, or illustrated with beading or quill work, images of frogs, bears, birds, lizards, fish and other creatures have meanings beyond their decorative value. Frogs, for example, are associated with water and rain; bears are believed to have a knowledge of the medicinal values of roots and herbs. (left: Zuni, Southwest, Katsina, c. 1900, wood, metal, pigment, feathers, hair spruce twigs, cloth, Gift of Mrs. Henry Lang in memory of her mother, Mrs. Jasper R. Rand, 1914.210, photo: © Mike Peters 1999)

Untamed Spirits includes objects made in the late 19th century, as well as contemporary ceramics. They are representative of many different native cultures of North America and are all appreciated for their intrinsic aesthetic value. Untamed Spirits conveys ancient myths told through objects crafted from simple, natural materials. The objects and their stories continue to fascinate and inspire. (right: Northwest Coast, Haida, Raven Rattle, c. 1900, wood, pigment, fiber, Gift of Mrs. Henry Lang in memory of her mother, Mrs. Jasper R. Rand, 1914.312)

Native American art has been a central aspect of The Montclair Art Museum's vision and collection since its formative years. Prior to the Museum's opening in 1914, the Rand and Lang families of Montclair were developing a world-class collection of Native American art with the intention that Native American works would be presented to the public, furthering an appreciation of indigenous cultures, aesthetics and technical skill. The Museum's Native American art collection originated with the two major private donations from these families: Anne Valentine Rand's collection of 350 baskets at the Museum's opening in 1914, and nearly 1,500 objects from the collection of her daughter Florence Rand Lang, a principal founder of the Museum. Lang's collecting endeavors were guided by Grace Nicholson, considered by many to be the single mast important dealer in Native American art of the 20th century. (right: Jody Folwell (b. 1942), Santa Clara, Sacred Lake, 1995, clay, pigment, Museum purchase, Acquisition Fund, 1995.35, photo: © Andrea Brizzi)

Recent additions to MAM's collection include historic and modern jewelry from the Southwest, Plains and California, Navajo textiles, and numerous works on paper by noted artists from the Santa Fe School, including Ma Pi Wi, Tonita Pena, Oqwa Pi and Oscar Howe.

Today, The Montclair Art Museum's Native American Collection comprises 4,035 ethnographic objects representing the cultural development of various peoples in the Plains, Southwest, California Intermountain, Northwest, and Eastern woodlands regions, with particularly distinguished examples of baskets and jewelry. The Collection includes works on paper, paintings, contemporary ceramics, weavings and photography. Well-known contemporary artists such as Fritz Scholder and Dan Namingha are part of this collection, as well as Juane Quick To See Smith, Tony Abeyta, Dan Lomaheftewa, Jody Folwell and John Nieto.

Read more about the Montclair Art Museum in Resource Library Magazine.

rev. 12/23/10

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