Plains Indians Exhibit Opens At Museum

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Accompanying the McMullen Museum of Art's summer exhibition of fine art prints is a smaller display of early 20th century ethnographer Edward S. Curtis' photographic portraits of Plains Indians.

Through Sept. 14, the museum is showcasing the work of printmakers from a fine art press on the Maine island of Vinalhaven. "In Print: Contemporary Artists at the Vinalhaven Press" features 61 prints by artists from painting or sculpting backgrounds who have explored new directions in print media.

Running simultaneously in the museum's downstairs gallery is an exhibit of seven vintage photogravures of American Indians by Curtis, who between 1900 and 1930 recorded the vanishing Native American culture west of Mississippi through thousands of photographs and recordings of tribal songs and oral histories.

This photo of a Piegan Indian, "Iron Breast," is among the photos in the new McMullen Museum exhibit.

The photogravures in the Curtis exhibit were part of his extensive portfolio titled The North American Indian (1907-30) , and were presented to the museum by its benefactor, Trustee Associate John J. McMullen, for whose parents the museum is named.

The photographic portraits largely romanticize their subjects by posing them in colorful feathers and buckskins, which few Indians wore in everyday life by then.

"For the vast majority of Americans who lived in the Northeast, the West existed only in images," said Adj. Asst. Prof. Charles Meyer (Fine Arts), who wrote the commentary that accompanies the portraits. "Easterners viewed photographs not as metaphors for experience, but as reality itself. If images of the West were exotic, it was assumed that the West itself must be exotic."

The museum is located in Devlin Hall. Admission is free and open to the public. For further information, call the museum's "Arts Line" at ext.2-8100, or visit its World Wide Web site at /bc_org/avp/cas/artmuseum/.

Return to July 17 menu

Return to Chronicle home page