I find myself compelled to learn something about Native American art. The passing of Russell Means struck me very hard. I was once a fervent fan of the troublemakers who attempted at Wounded Knee to bring the nation’s attention back to a people to whom we owe so very much. Yet, here I was decades later as ignorant as I’d been all those years before.
I can share a few things I know about Native Americans. I know that art applied to every aspect of their lives, and most of it bore religious significance. Designs on pots and blankets hearken back to tales of creation and spirits and the promise of the world to come. I know that life itself was so precious and valued that nearly every tribe embraced the things of the earth and the life that moved upon its surface with no sense of entitlement or dominion, but with a keen sense of their place within the body of a gigantic engine. They were a people of titanic courage who might yet approach a mouse with caution for powerful spirits lurked everywhere and if life taught them anything, it was that it paid to be humble.
Spirits live even in the work of our hands. Any regular museum goer can attest to having from time to time felt an odd premonition that just beyond the next corner lies a thing of power and significance and life. I am convinced that much art, particularly pottery, still exists today because it calls to us and requires our attention and protection. And we provide it because it magically makes us feel better. We are rubbing noses with a spirit on another plane. We feel the promise of eternity and simplicity, of spiritual peace.
I have not paid attention as I should, and so I commit now to look at this art with fresher eyes. In the meanwhile, here are some pieces to look at. They are all curious and beautiful. I cannot wait to find out what they will teach me.
Anything is possible.