I am honored to have contributed an essay to The Oxford Handbook of American Indian History edited by Frederick E. Hoxie. I wrote the chapter (#23) on “Native American Expressive Arts,” and Oxford University Press released the handbook this month (April 2016). I appreciated the opportunity to provide an overview of Native American art history and to be included with such wonderful scholars.
Opening with the life and art of Dakota artist Oscar Howe, the chapter discusses the
“Indianness” of Native art and the frustrations experienced by Native artists over the
years surrounding their creative expressions. The chapter is arranged chronologically,
opening in the late nineteenth century and highlighting sample exhibitions, artworks, and
artists from the United States in order to illustrate broad conceptual issues. These
include Indian authenticity and identity, differences between fine art and “crafts,”
traditional versus contemporary art forms, the role of the arts in economic development,
and the impact of federal power on the arts. The chapter draws examples from painting,
sculpture, photography, video, and performance art. It concludes with a proposal for
understanding Native art inspired by the words of Santa Clara artist Rose Simpson.