Travel Photo Thursday: Denver’s American Indian Art

November 7, 2013

in Travel Photo Thursday

  • SumoMe

As a rule, I’m not a big fan of art museums.

I’d rather see art displayed “in space” rather than in a boring museum.

And for me, a corollary to that rule is that the most boring of all art is that done by or depicting Native Americans.

But rules are made to be broken, and the Denver Art Museum not only broke both of those rules for me, it demolished them.

A Woman Made from Mud

Roxanne Swentzell’s ten-foot high “Mud Woman Rolls On” (2011) is no doubt the most distinctive piece in the museum’s American Indian Art Collection.

In an explanatory sign next to the piece Swentzell says:

“When asked to create a piece for the Denver Art Museum, I wanted the viewer to start with a perspective of Earth and Mother. Having a Mother made of clay is an appropriate beginning to our Native world. We are all from this Mother, all from this Earth: made of he and will return to her.

“The Mother holds the largest child, who’s holding the next child, who’s holding the next and so on…Male or female, in the Pueblo world, we are “Mothers” (nurturers) of the generations to come…

“The Mother figure is very large; the children are more human size. From this perspective viewers see their place in creation more clearly…”


Although it took Swentzell months to build “Mud Woman Rolls On,” you can follow the entire process from beginning to end in this 69-second video which is part of her exhibit.


American History Revised

Jim Denomie’s monumental oil on canvas entitled “Eminent Domain: A Brief History of America” (2011) prevents the viewer with a far different perspective on America than Swentzell’s hope-inspiring clay sculpture.

The exhibit signage says that the artist’s “map” of the U.S. features events such as:

  • Osama Bin Laden as King Kong scaling the Twin Towers
  • Christopher Columbus arriving in three UPS trucks
  • Mount Rushmore with pop culture icons
  • Abraham Lincoln observing the assassination of John F. Kennedy
  • The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City
  • Civil War battles
  • Tonto and the Lone Ranger

and that

“Each event is depicted in roughly the geographic location in which it occurred with Denomie’s characteristic biting wit as he presents a conflicted national history.”

Peace Be With You

After having my sensibilities shaken up by Denomie, I found a dose of more traditional portrayal of Native Americans in Kevin Red Star’s “Knows Her Medicine/Crow Indian” (1981) is settling to the spirit.

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots.)

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