"The West's Best"

by Peter MacMillan Booth






Increasingly forced to leave their own artistic traditions, Native People turned to modernist and stylized art as a means to reflect on their ceremonial experiences and the changing world around them.

Native People had previously expressed their artistic energy through the production of utilitarian and ceremonial objects. The creation of these items decreased as the material market's influence increased and a concerted government policy discouraging traditional religions and traditional art forms took affect. Starting in the 1910s, art patrons promoted the rise of a fine art tradition among Pueblo Indians. This was followed by the teaching of art at the Santa Fe Indian School to Native students from a plethora of other tribes. In most cases, the Native artists reflected much of what they understood about traditional ceremonial life. Less concerned with a realistic presentation, they stylized the figures in a two dimensional format while giving great attention to the symbolic details. This modernistic and stylized approach would dominate the art of Native People well into the 1960s.


Key Artist

Harrison Begay

Harrison Begay is considered the premier traditional Indian artist. Born in White Cone, Arizona, he is a member of the Navajo tribe. Begay attended Fort Wingate Indian School in New Mexico and in 1939, graduated from Santa Fe Indian School where he learned art from Dorothy Dunn (who inspired many of the Native Peoples who were part of the Indian Renaissance). After serving in the army, he won the French Palmes d' Acaemique in 1945. This inspired Begay to work full tune as an artist. The two-dimensional flat style of Indian figures and other Southwest scenes are highly desired.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

return to page 1 of "The West's Best"; Gallery Guide by Peter MacMillan Booth

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. [rev. 5/9/12]

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