Thursday, May 31, 2012

Native American Art

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Upon my entrance of the Native American exhibit my feeling was, “Let’s get this over with.” Equipped with my clipboard, pencil and vague memories of past history lessons I entered a white room that would instantly add color and perspective to my life. The paintings, sculptures and displays shocked me to the realization of the turmoil, pride and heritage felt and expressed by the Native American artists. With only stereotypical images of Indians with their feathers and bows and arrows as previous knowledge, I became emotionally stimulated by nearly every image as I scanned the room.

Different pieces struck me either because of their colors or immense abstractness, but only one spoke to me. At first glance, the Primordial Mythic Allusion #5, by Dan Viets Lomahattewo, my mind screamed “Hakuna Matata,” the phrase from Disney’s The Lion King, which means “no worries.” In the painting, everything seems to be in place, like there would be no worries about what troubles were in their world. I know from past knowledge however, that this was not the case. There was much turmoil for the Native Americans, which was brought on by the very people who should have been helping them. I think this painting shows that no matter what happened, they persisted and made due with the unfair circumstances they were put in without losing their faith that they would eventually be secure once more.

Looking at the painting, I was able to see the circle of life, one of the main themes in The Lion King. This painting has two Native Americans, a man and a woman, in the center who look nearly mythical because of the way their legs are painted. It appears that they are holding hands. They are dressed in traditional clothing and jewelry. There is an arch formed behind them, and in the middle is a baby animal that looks much like Baby Simba from The Lion King. In the lower left corner is a small child and in the lower right corner is a buffalo. When looking closely I was able to see other images like musical instruments swirling around in the painting as well. The background is made by blocks of color intertwined to show the earth, the mountains and the sky. In the circle of life created by the painting I could identify the Native American beliefs in spirits, the importance of ceremonial dances, and also, the pride they have in their culture. Another unique trait of the painting is that everything seems to be connected, not even the color blocks are fighting for dominance. The contrast of bright, vibrant color and the lighter earth tones help illustrate the whole spectrum of Native American lives and traditions. The colors complement and blend perfectly to show how Native Americans strive to live in harmony.

In the corner of the painting is a small person, the artist. Lomahaftewa grew up in the Hopi tribe and was constantly surrounded by bold colors, art, religion, dancing and singing. He has learned the traditions and values of his people through his two greatest teachers, his mother and grandmother, members of the Choctaw tribe. The purpose of his art is simple; to show others the appreciation he has for his culture. Lomahaftewa is not just a painter; he also expresses his devotion and love for his culture through music and poetry.


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Lomahaftewa always tried to put himself into his artwork, and in this particular piece, he was a bystander who was watching everything. Like looking at a snow globe, he could see how life was all connected. If you look at a snow globe from the side you only see what is closest to the glass, but if you look from the top, you can see the whole picture. This is a very important concept for a college student, like myself, to remember. It’s easy to get lost in one thing or one idea and then lose focus of the big picture, but if you remember to look at problems from the outside they seems easier to deal with.

Primordial Mythic Allusion #5 produces so many elements that make a great work of art. The continuity of thought and expression, the relevance to the modern world and the emotion of the artist make this painting top quality. The exhibit as a whole made my experience a perspective-altering event. I will remember these feelings forever and when I am asked by future generations what I know about Native Americans I will know what to say. If I ever find myself in a place where I need new perspective, I know I can go to the closest museum. There I can experience someone else’s life, culture and misfortune in an extremely positive way and come back knowing that life will work itself out because everything is connected and never ending.



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