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North American Indian Art And ArtistsFocus Of DIA Curator’s New Book

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

North American Indian Art, a new book by David W. Penney, Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) curator of Native American art, provides a fascinating introduction to the history of Native American art and artists from ancient times to the 21st century. The book is part of the popular World of Art series, published by Thames & Hudson, and is available at the DIA’s museum shop for $16.95, and at area bookstores.

North American Indian Art was written to inform a general readership about the history of North American Indian art with lively descriptions complemented by photographs of compelling works, many of which are from the DIA’s collection. Penney’s book stands apart from other historical accounts of Native American art in that he focuses on the individual artists, their roles in society and the cultural and social contexts of the objects they created. He dispels a common misconception that Native Americans created art as tribal groups, with the artists being unknown. While the book gives a comprehensive overview of North American Indian art over time, readers will also learn about many contemporary Native American artists. The last chapter highlights many of these artists and their works, such as Joe Herrera and Lloyd Kiva, who communicate their artistic self-expression while maintaining a sense of cultural tradition. The book is organized geographically and takes information from the oral tradition of storytelling, Native American history and the latest research in North American archaeology.

“I wrote the book with the general public in mind, but I think experts in the field can also learn something,” said Penney. “It benefits from a tremendous growth in the past 20 years in the study of American Indian art and builds upon the work of countless friends and colleagues.”

Penney has worked at the DIA for 24 years, developing a strong collection of Native American art. Penney has consulted for other museums such as The National Gallery of Art, The Minneapolis Art Museum, The National Museum of the American Indian and The Art Institute of Chicago. Penney has written other books including, Great Lakes Indian Art, Art of the American Indian Frontier: A Portfolio and Art of The Native North American.