Eiteljorg Museum

Indianapolis, IN

(317) 636-9378


Gifts of the Spirit: Works by 19th Century and Contemporary Native American Artists



"Gifts of the Spirit is a visual description of the history, culture and art of Native peoples during the last 200 years," Complo said. "The exhibition shows the spirit of Native American artists as they describe, through their work, the issues and concerns of a culture living in the 21st century." The pieces were gathered early in the 19th century by sea captains and missionaries in Salem, Mass., and include exceptional works and rare masterpieces.

The newer pieces were selected for this exhibit based on their artistic quality and their relationship to the historical works in the exhibition. These works encompass a wide breadth of media and styles, from the bronze and rusted steel sculpture of Bob Haozous (Chiricahua Apache) and the pictorial beadwork of Marcus Amerman (Choctaw) to blown glass sculpture by Tony Jojola (Isleta Pueblo) and paintings by Susan Stewart (Crow/Blackfoot) and Valjean McCarty Hessing (Choctaw).

One of Amerman's pieces is a modern-day baby carrier (the backpack variety) covered with beads to adorn its precious cargo. A historical Mink Skin Bag used to carry tobacco, a precious possession, also is covered with beads. Although a century apart, these two artists used the same artistic technique - beadwork - to accomplish the same feat, a testament to the continuation and evolution of Native American artistic traditions.

Above Left: Mink Skin Bag, Micmac, 19th century. Mink skin, cloth and glass beads. Collection of the Peabody Essex Museum. Gift of the estate of Charles F. Williams, 1907. Photograph by Mark Sexton. The artist who decorated and embellished this bag made of mink skin may have had specific and devout reasons for taking the time and care to balance color and design and to follow the shape of the animal's body. The bag is thought to have been used for carrying religious objects.

Above Right: Baby Carrier, Marcus Amerman (Choctaw), 1995. Leather, glass beads, prefabricated aluminum, nylon. Loaned by the artist. Photograph by Mark Sexton. As when Native American artists of the past decorated the cradieboards used to carry their children, Amennan decorates a modern-day baby carrier with beads and fringe.

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rev. 11/26/10

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