Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Indian Art

What makes Indian Art or any art for that matter, a piece of art? I love art. it is one of the things I enjoy being around. Not just Indian art but all sorts of art, even bad art. Like the Voice of Fire by Barnett Newman. You know that piece for sure. It's the three lines of paint on a big piece of canvas (could be plywood) that sold for almost two million dollars. http://www.flickr.com/photos/funderstorms/2635715342/

Me, I am too damn simple to get the "full effect" of this abstract piece. I have no doubt that there is merit in the Voice of Fire, after all two million reasons of merit are placed upon it. I do like things that are considered "folk art". You know the simple stuff. Even things that are labeled crafts. For me, one person's craft is another person's work of art. Who would consider a Hand Drum a work of art? Many people would not. Most would call it primitive example or contemporary forms of a craft object. Why does cost become the measurement for what is art? The higher it costs or the higher someone is willing to pay for something makes it more of fine art object. That's another thing, labels put on art make it more or less respectable. Whether it's Fine art, folk art, contemporary art, Tribal art, and of course commercial art.
Malevich's Black Square is an iconic painting by Kazimir Malevich 1915

What makes art, Art? I am like a lot of people, I like Morrisseau and Odjig. I like their art because we are told they are good. In this case it happens to be true. You look at the colours and the shapes and the stories told and you know that the artist is trying to bring you along for the ride in the story. However, some art work is just nice. Pleasing to look at, with nice colours and a representation of something that we may or may not recognize. It is still art. But it's really all subjective. Subjective to what we judge it to be. It's all about judgment. We are told not to be judgmental but art is one area where we have to be. I like the Voice of Fire actually. If I wasn't told it was a piece of art, I would have thought it was a representation of a flag. Some country that I was unaware of. But with the two million dollar price tag attached, I like it for it's worth. For some reason it looks better now that it is worth something. I like to tease my wife that way. When I win the lottery I will somehow become instantly handsome. That's what we say when someone wins the lotto, "look who just got very pretty."

I love art, did I tell you? My friend is a Road Chief, he conducts Peyote ceremonies. His ceremonial fan and Gourd are great pieces of art. The fan has Macaw feathers and a beaded handle. Someone took great care in making this fan and gourd rattle. http://www.ceremonialart.biz/FullBeaded%20Set.jpg
It's like that with many ceremonial items, moccasins, dancing sticks, dancing bussells, Shawls, beadwork, you name it. That is what I like about Powwow, the opportunity to view all of this art work. It's like being in one big art gallery and seeing all the artists.

We have on our wall a Tikinaagan, a baby cradle board. It was made by this woman in Island Lake. I bought it off her for four hundred dollars about 20 years ago. A lot of money. It's a real cradle board that can be used. So it was meant to be used and not hung up like a piece of art.

I have some West Coast art carvings. This one West Coast artist, J. Joseph is infamous. He was in the news for selling Eagles. Yep, this guy is a good artist but he is also a Windigo. A greedy monster. He tried to make a living selling feathers. They would leave fish around a tree and wait for the morning and shoot the Eagles sitting in the tree. That's greed for you. Didn't matter he had talent, he wanted more and more. That is the Windigo, it's appetite just grows and grows, can't stop it, and it consumes you. That is why it is never good to want something too much.

I know that about art. You collect it and you want more and more. You see your friend has a piece and you want it to. You get so that you must have it. You lose sight of what is important. Art is lovely but it is not the most important thing. My family had a giveaway to celebrate our daughter's life, so we gave away our art. You give away things you like and not things you don't like.
Calling the Night - Jackson Beardy 


  1. Ooh if you can find this book at a library I think you'll love it! Tsimshian Treasures


    I ordered it second hand from abebooks.com, but my library had it too.

    It shows a bunch of Tsimshian pieces that were purchased at auction in 2006, one for over a million dollars--the most ever paid for a Native American artifact.

    The story behind the acquisition is really political and interesting.


  2. Thanks, If I do remember I will look for it. I am big into fiction right now so most of my purchases are of books. take care.