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Native Talk: Amon Carter’s ‘Indigenous Beauty’ 13

Situlilu (Rattlesnake) Katsina, 1910-1930, Zuni, New Mexico.

Many of our ideas of Native Indian art remain confined to baskets and blankets — or that pretty little piece of pottery we picked up in Santa Fe on vacation two years ago. Against such limited notions comes a major new show at the Amon Carter Museum called Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection. The 122 masterworks it contains include everything from moccasins from Texas to ancient walrus ivory carvings from Alaska to carved wooden war clubs from Wisconsin. They provide a stunning corrective in their transcontinental range and often superb quality. There are baskets here of such tight precision and beauty they make modern, machine-made products seem simple or dull, pueblo pottery as abstract and lively as anything by Picasso and leather garments so elegant, they wouldn’t look out of place on a Parisian dandy in the 18th century.

For THINK, Art & Seek’s Jerome Weeks interviewed David Penney, the curator of the show and the associate director of scholarship at the National Museum of the American Indian.