Friday, October 18, 2013
Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast by Hilary Stewart
A Rosetta Stone for deciphering this beautiful visual language
From the native cultures of the Northwest Coast (southern Alaska to northern Oregon) have sprung some of the most spiritually powerful and visually stunning artworks ever created in the Western hemisphere, rivaling even the Mesoamerican art of the Aztecs and Maya in their complexity and sophistication. The indigenous artists of this region preceded the European modernists by at least a century in their flattening of three-dimensional figures into two-dimensional space, their simplification of reality into geometric forms, and their depictions of subject matter through a simultaneity of multiple viewpoints. This excellent little book helps to translate this unique visual language, and truly broadens the reader’s appreciation and understanding of this rich cultural legacy.
Hilary Stewart explains the motifs that recur in Northwest Coast art and provides a field guide to the animals and people—both natural and mythological—most often depicted. The book is generously illustrated with designs by contemporary artists working in the traditional style of the Northwest Coast, as well as black and white photographs of museum pieces, murals, and totem poles. The images are accompanied by insightful text pointing out the cultural significance of each graphic element. No doubt this book is too thin to be the authoritative scholarly reference on the subject, but it provides an excellent introduction for beginners and would serve as a valuable pocket companion for those more knowledgeable in the field. It’s also an instructive visual dictionary for artists hoping to try their hand at this style of imagery. If you’re at all interested in Northwest Coast art, you’ll find this book both helpful and enjoyable.
If you liked this review, please follow the link below to Amazon.com and give me a “helpful” vote. Thank you.