Posts tagged american indian
Posts tagged american indian
From a write-up of the Penobscot Building in the blog “Drawing on Indians,” which focuses on depictions of Native Americans over the past 500 years. Why is it written up? Because it’s covered with Native American references! Check it out!
In particular worth noting this analysis on how this is a typical example of white designers grabbing onto generic Indian designs for their own purposes:
Once again, we have a prominent example of non-Native individuals appropriating an Indian style or motif to express their nostalgia for a long ago time (in this case, for the logging camps of northern Maine). Why couldn’t they have used a Northwoods or lumberjack theme? Wouldn’t that have been more appropriate considering their history?
It’s unique that they specifically decided to go with the Penobscot name (based on the river, named after the tribe). But once again, the Indian designs come out as a complete grab bag of styles, designs, and symbolism very little of which has to do with the actual Penobscot people of northern Maine (who were certainly around in the 1920s to serve as design consultants!)
Why would the “Penobscot Building” include sculptures of Plains Indian style headdresses, southwest Indian geometric patterns, and animals ranging from foxes to turtles to eagles?
The answer is simple. The designers weren’t actually going for a Penobscot theme but rather a generic “Indian” theme in which the most visually striking but culturally divergent elements are pulled together to fulfill the designers’ notions of Indianness.
In so many ways, the Indian figures throughout the Penobscot Building represent America’s thoughts and feelings about Native people in the early 20th century. The cold stone bodies represent a people immobile, stuck in place and unable to change. The stoic expressions represent a people devoid of emotion and sentiment, yet somehow appear both proud and sad. They are forever linked to both Nature and the primitive ways of the past. Like classical Greek columns or Gothic spires, they are rich with meaning and symbolism, put on display for all the world to see.
The Penobscot Building is above all an artifact. It is an item from the past whose elements can reveal the secrets of a time long ago.
It is a truly remarkable building and worth the visit if you ever come to Detroit.
BTW, about the writer behind Drawing on Indians:
Stephen Bridenstine: I am a graduate student at the University of British Columbia where I study modern U.S. and Canadian social and cultural history. I specialize in issues of myth, memory, and representation concerning indigenous peoples and the North American fur trade. In an effort to bring attention to these topics and put my thoughts into writing, I have started blogging. I hope you appreciate the results.
Mural, Lane Tech College Prep High School, Chicago, Illinois
by Terence Faircloth
Huge painting in the school auditorium. Wow.
Oil on steel painting entitled “Native American Theme” by John Walley executed in 1936; the piece measures 43 ft by 20 ft. and is located in the the school auditorium of what is now the Lane Tech College Prep High School at 2501 West Addison Street on the Northwest Side of Chicago, Illinois.
The work was sponsored by the Federal Art Project which was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) designed to provide work for unemployed Americans during the Great Depression.
Badgerow Building, Sioux City, Iowa
Nice series of shots of this Deco building covered in Native American motifs.
It was love at first sight. This twelve story art deco styled structure with a twist of Native America and the old West is currently being renovated in downtown Sioux City, Iowa.
Interior Doors, Nebraska State Capitol, Lincoln, Nebraska
First of many example of amazing interiors from the building, which includes a wide variety of Native American motifs, as you see here.
The sculptural elements of the building were designed by sculptor Lee Lawrie. Hartley Burr Alexander, a Lincoln native and professor of philosophy, served as “thematic consultant.” It was Alexander’s influence that resulted in the strong American Indian symbology, despite the wishes of [Bertam] Goodhue, who was from the East Coast region. He felt that the incorporation of Indian designs into the Capitol would make the building look like a tipi and would therefore be “ruinous to the architectural design.” However, during April 1924, two years after groundbreaking, Goodhue died. The sudden death of the architect allowed Alexander to exert greater influence over the artistic designs, and thereafter Indian images were incorporated.
Detail, Penobscot Building, Detroit, Michigan
Incredible late 1920s work.
Detail of the Penobscot building. Detroit, Michigan, United States. Built 1928.
Comstock Hill Road Bridge, Merritt Parkway, Norwalk, Connecticut
from the Library of Congress
Sculpture of Native American on one side of the bridge; the other side (coming up) shows a Pilgrim.
From the LoC:
COMSTOCK HILL ROAD BRIDGE, DETAIL OF ABUTMENT SHOWING INDIAN RELIEF SCULPTURE. Merritt Parkway, Comstock Hill Road Bridge, Spanning Merritt Parkway, Norwalk, Fairfield, CT
I’ve spent a lot of time going through the LoC’s photo archives, which make available the Historic American Buildings Survey / Historic American Engineering Record photos. I urge you to check them out yourself!