Some Indian Arts Show objects show a pop or post-modern hipness. Other works display a knowledge of Native American painting styles that arose some 60 to 70 years ago. And other works show an understanding of form and function that date well before Columbus arrived.
The wide range of work produced by Native Americans today reflects the art world as a whole, and beginning Saturday visitors can observe that variety in the upcoming Fourth Annual Lawrence Indian Arts Show at the Kansas University Museum of Anthropology.
"There are all kinds of styles here,'' said Arthur Amiotte, an artist and writer who was one of two judges for this year's show. "I don't think you can say there's just one Indian style anymore. As a new generation of artists comes into the field, they bring new perspectives from on and off reservations.''
SINCE 1989, the Anthropology Museum, the Lawrence Arts Center and Haskell Indian Junior College have collaborated on a series of events designed to celebrate Native American culture. The Arts Center this year offers an exhibit of work by Roger McKinney, a Kickapoo artist from Higley, Ariz., who coincidentally won a Best in Show prize in the juried competition. Haskell offers a display of Native American flutes.
The show at the museum presents the works of 82 artists from 47 tribes and 19 states. The judges awarded prizes totaling $7,200, including two Best of Show awards of $1,500 each. Joining Amiotte on the judging panel was Ruthe Blalock Jones, an artist and an associate professor at Bacone College in Muskogee, Okla.
Clarissa Hudson of Juneau, Alaska, won in the three-dimensional art category.
THIS YEAR, Arts Show officials changed the rules to bar previous winners of Best in Show from winning again they can still submit work, but they can win Best in Show only once in three years. Two artists, Lee Mann and Craig Dan Goseyun, won Best in Show two years running.
Artists also were required to provide documentation of their Native American heritage because of Public Law 101-644, which is the Federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act. It mandates that contemporary and tribal arts that are called Native American must be made by Native Americans.
The law prevents galleries and dealers from selling pottery made in Japan as Native American, but it also prevents some people who do not have tribal documentation from presenting themselves as Native American artists.
MARIA MARTIN, the show's coordinator, said she believes it had little effect on what was submitted to the competition, and Amiotte said the law rewards people who stuck with their Native American cultures even when the government and the dominant culture discriminated against them.
"There was a time when being an Indian was a very negative thing, and Indians let go of their identity,'' Amiotte said. "Recently being an Indian became profitable, and people began going back into their ancestry to get the proper papers. Some left their culture so far behind that they have no documentation, so it's an example of the sins of the fathers visited on the young.''
But beyond the rules of the show and the laws of the government, the works by Native American artists stand out. In one drawing, the passive faces of Gen. George Custer and Sitting Bull stare out from a frame.
Colorful, detailed images of Native Americans in the clothing of their culture hang alongside paintings and drawings depicting contemporary life and abstract forms. Small, sculpted objects mix with the soft curves of various styles of pottery. One artist submitted an entire costume, and another sent a decorated horse harness.
WERE IT possible to see a through-line in the two-dimensional pieces, Amiotte would suggest Native American artists concentrate on the human form.
"Over the years, there seems to have been less emphasis on animals,'' he said. "It may have to do with changing Indian culture. Horses were part of the culture, but now fewer and fewer Indians have horses as part of their everyday lives. As a result, we see a predominance of the human figure.''
In addition to the two Best in Show winners, merit awards were given to: Wanda Aragon, Acoma, N.M., Acoma Pueblo; Mary Annette Clause, Sanborn, N.Y., Mohawk; MacDougal Coyote, Cortez, Colo., Ute Mountain Ute; Anita Fields, Stillwater, Okla., Osage-Creek; John Guthrie, Tahlequah, Okla., Cherokee; Vanessa Morgan, Anadarko, Okla., Kiowa-Pima; Chris Musgrave, Baldwin, Osage; Sandra Okuma, Pauma Valley, Calif., Shoshone-Bannock-Luiseno; Paphonee, Leon, Iowa, Kickapoo; Jackie Sevier, Seneca, Neb., Northern Arapano; Mary Seymour, Acomita, N.M., Acoma Pueblo; Marla Spears, Macy, Neb., Omaha; Jeff Wilson, Bigfork, Mont., Northern Cheyenne; and Gary Yoyokie, Kykotsmovi, Ariz., Hopi and Navajo.
HONORABLE Mentions awards went to Jerrolyn R. Bear Nose, Rapid City, S.D., Oglala Sioux; Arthur C. Begay Sr., Farmington, N.M., Navajo; Stella Chavarria, Espanola, N.M., Santa Clara Pueblo; Perry Curley, Lawrence, Navajo; Johnnie Lee Diacon, Springdale, Ark., Thlopthlocco Creek; Connie Guthrie, Tahlequah, Okla., Cherokee; Laurie Houseman-Whitehawk, Lawrence, Winnebago; Roderick and Lela Kaskalla, Santa Fe, N.M., Zuni and Nambe Pueblos; Reuben Kent, Santa Fe, N.M., Iowa-Kickapoo-Oto; Reycita Louis, Acomita, N.M., Acoma Pueblo; Don Secondine, Dover, Ohio, Delaware-Cherokee; and Hallee Vivers, Paola, Cherokee.