Art of the Northwest CoastPaperback - 2006
Art of the Northwest Coast is a comprehensive survey of the Native arts of the Pacific Northwest Coast, from Puget Sound to Alaska and from prehistoric times to the present. Incorporating the region's social history with the observations of anthropologists, historians of art, and Native peoples, this groundbreaking volume examines how the upheavals of European contact affected the development of a powerful traditional art. By exploring the distinct origins of each of the area's linguistic groups and their histories, mythologies, and art forms, art historian Aldona Jonaitis reveals how a complex web of factors informed these groups' varied responses to the changes and challenges brought about by contact with Europeans.
The post-contact period has often been considered a time of decline for Native artistic traditions and techniques, but Jonaitis convincingly argues against this assumption. The traditions were not lost, she asserts, but rather were expressed in different ways. Forms such as tourist art - made expressly for sale rather than for community use - were for some the only outlets available in the trying, repressive years when Natives were deprived of their land, rights, and essential cultural expressions. While art made for community use was often judged "inferior" in quality to nineteenth-century creations, it still expressed the strong aesthetics of a surviving Native culture.
Since the 1960s, Native artistic activity has flourished and is increasingly recognized as fine art rather than anthropological artifact. Repatriation of Native works of art from museums, a strong market for collectors and dealers, and a reaffirmation of traditional culture and heritage among Native communities all contribute to a vibrant field in which Native artists reflect their enduring cultures in works that explore many contemporary directions.
Compellingly written and beautifully illustrated, Art of the Northwest Coast is a cornerstone addition to any library and essential reading for anyone interested in the art of Native cultures.