Young Adults Books

ARTISTS AND CRAFTSPEOPLE: AMERICAN INDIAN LIVES, Arlene Hirschfelder; Facts on File, Inc., 460 Park Avenue South, N.Y., NY 10016, (800) 322- 8755, FAX: (212) 213-4578; 1994, 150 pages, index, annotated bibliography, black and white photos. Hardcover, $17.95; 0-8160-2960-1

This is the most disappointing of the FoF American Indian Lives series. Judging by her treatment of artists in the American Indian Almanac (reviewed under References here), Hirschfelder has no feeling for the visual or plastic arts, "tin eye". She must have taken on a task she neither liked nor is suited for for the money. The publisher must take some of the blame for this lame book too. A book about Indian artists must reproduce several artworks -- in color -- for each artist. Their art is their lives after all. This book is illustrated (usually) with one muddy black and white photo, usually of the artist standing or sitting by one of his or her works -- in some cases not even an appropriate work, since some of them have done very famous and well-known pieces that are owned by museums. In most cases quality color photos could easily have been obtained (although most museums charge a substantial publication fee to commercial publishers). And of course quality 4-color printing requires both more money and better paper than these books are printed on. And thre are not many illustrations -- often only a photo of the artist, and at most one of his work. Usually the only illustration is th artist standing or seated by some item. All of these artists have been written up in various art peiodicals, with many fine color illustrations of their works that would have been available, too. So this is an ugly little book about the makers of beauty. The research is well done, the text well written for young teens, but the fact is a book about artistsw with no or such inadequate illustrations is just no good. The author can tell about their lives, but not about their works.

Artists included are Dat So Lee, Washo basketmaker; Nampeyo, Hopi potter; Plains (mostly Kiowa ledger -- here called pictographic -- artists of the 19th century); Maria Martinez (san Ildefonso pottr); Alan Houser, Apache sculptor; Oscar Howe, Lakota (not Dakota) painter; Helen Cordero (Cochiti Storyteller potter -- not dollmaker); Pablita Velarde, Santa Clara painter; Bill Reid, Haida carver (metalworker); Charles Loloma, Hopi jeweler; Stanley R. Hill, Mohawk bone carver; Jimmy Todd (beatien Yazz), Navajo paintr; Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Northern Cheyenne jeweler); Lawrence Beck (Inuit sculptor); Jaune Quick-to-see Smith (Salish painter); Harry Fonseca (Maidu painter); Rhonda Holy Bear (Lakota doll artist).

A tilt to the southwest is apparent in the artist selections here, as is the absence of beadwork, leatherwork, wood carving, metalwork, quillwork, weaving, all crats except one metalworker (who is depected standing next to an uncharacteristic large carving). There are very few quotes from the artists (most of whom have had a lot to say about what motivates their work, and in particular how they try to serve their peopleand represent traditions through their -- often artistically innovative -- creations). But the big absence is the actual works, in full color, which would make any book valuable, however clunky the context it was embedded in. Instead of this book, the The Native American Fine Art Movement Resource Guide is recommended. Reviewed by Paula Giese.

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Friday, April 19, 1996 - 5:56:30 AM