Saturday, March 13, 2010

Native American representation in the public art square of Chicago - I

Click on any image for an enlarged view..

As I was reading a passage in the Chicago History Museum..
some questions crossed through my mind ..
First the passage..
By the time European explorers arrived, Native Americans had lived here for more than 10,000 years. These new arrivals found several Indian groups moving through or living in Chicago region including the Miami, Illinois, Ottawa and Potawatomie. Many of these tribes intermarried and inhabited the same territory, they called Checagou, the Miami and Illinois word for the wild onion plant that grew in the marshes along the Lake..

As I was reading this, I was wondering how much of the public art scene in Chicago represents the Native Americans, who lived here for more than 10,000 years, before the "explorers" arrived??

Public Art, although is wide-ranging, always has a regional component to it. It strengthens civic pride thorough identification with it's history and culture. But history is mostly bloody.. And.. History is always written by the winners.. especially true, when we are talking about the Native Americans. And they were the losers. But we have come in terms with our past, or have we? Reminds me of the controversy over the use of term "Fort Dearborn massacre", which now is being termed as the "Battle of Fort Dearborn"..

I don't know where I am going with this. But I do want to document the representation of Native American culture & history in the public art scene of Chicago.. I don't know where this will lead to, but worth a try.. Well, the best method is to learn as you go, so let the chips fall where they may.. Although I am quite aware of some controversial aspects, especially the Fort Dearborn massacre/battle debate, click here..

Let me begin with this sculpture.. The Indian Alarm..
By John J. Boyle.
Completed in 1884..
This sculpture is said to be one of the earliest work in Chicago to realistically portray and feature American Indians. It shows an Ottawa Indian family on the move, halting as if alert to some imminent danger..
For more on "The Indian Alarm".. click here..
Ref: Early Chicago.. click here

Another beautiful piece I've seen is "The Sun Vow", at the Art Institute of Chicago.
By Hermon Atkins MacNeil
Modeled-1898, Cast-1901..

The context of this sculpture is explained in the Metropolitan Museum of Art website here..
Before a boy on the threshold of manhood could be accepted as a warrior of his tribe, he must shoot an arrow directly into the sun. If the chieftain judging the boy's prowess was so blinded by the sun's rays that he could not follow the flight of the arrow, it was said to have gone "out of sight," and the youth had passed the test...
MacNeil heightened the visual impact of his composition by choosing to capture the moment when the arrow has just been released..The two Native Americans here, have been identified as Sioux.
For more on "The Sun Vow".. click here..

To continue..


adgorn said...

Here are some other targets for you:

(The above three have numerous other reliefs worth photographing as well.)


Jyoti said...

Thanks Alan,
I will keep your links on mind, as I am working my way through, with my own set of ideas and inspirations.