Native American Art, June 1, 2012

Keating, Neal B. Iroquois Art, Power, and History. Univ. of Oklahoma. 2012. 360p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780806138909. $55. FINE ARTS

Keating (cultural anthropology, SUNY, Brockport) here discusses the visual art of the Six Nations, or Iroquois (a name coined by Europeans): the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora tribes. Their own preferred name is Haudenosaunee, or the people of the longhouse, which refers to their large dwellings built of wood and bark. The earliest accounts by French explorers mentioned Haudenosaunee paintings on stripped trees at prominent trail points to record war parties. Other art from that time includes body painting, tattoos, and decorations on war clubs. David Cusick, a Tuscarora who wrote a history of his tribe in 1828, extended indigenous artistry into Western mediums by illustrating his book with wonderful prints. Keating profiles dozens of artists who lived between Cusick’s time and the present day, including illustrations and descriptions of their specific style and use of materials. Most of these artists are almost unknown to the larger public.VERDICT While Keating uses some rather abstruse anthropological terms, the artist profiles‚ which make up the book’s most valuable section‚ are accessible to everyone. A thought-provoking look at a little-known group of artists hiding in plain sight.‚ David Mc Clelland, Andover, NY

Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art. Yale Univ. 2012. 248p. ed. by Karen Kramer Russell. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300177329. $65. FINE ARTS

In this companion piece to the show of the same name at the Peabody Essex Museum, edited by Russell (curator, Native American art & culture, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA), contributors examine the evolution of Native American art. The book includes traditional pieces as well as contemporary works that incorporate new ideas, media, and symbols along with old; works from as early as 200 B.C.E. are featured alongside pieces from the present. Divided into four sections (Changing, Knowing, Locating, and Voicing), each with an introductory essay, the book presents artworks accompanied by identifying information, a brief description, notes, and references. Though the essays can be a bit verbose, the concluding piece, Famous Long Ago, by Janet Catherine Berlo (art history, Univ. of Rochester), is refreshingly readable. VERDICT This new resource for art scholars, students of Native American studies, and those with a strong interest in Native American culture will update readers’ perceptions of Native American art. An essential title for academic and arts collections.‚ Jennifer Naimzadeh, ABBE Regional Lib. Syst., Bamberg, SC