Native American Art and Spirituality.
I spoke with my friend Tom Attle, who has a Bachelors degree in Art, and he told me that there is no term in Indian Culture for Art. This struck a curiosity in me because I am a student and lover of art and wondered why, with the beautiful Native art that surrounds me on a daily basis; there would be no such word. He said that art was a very spiritual thing for the Native Americans, this conversation that prompted me to write this paper today. In this paper, I will explain the origins of some Native American artwork and how it connects to their spirituality.
In the book, The Spirit of Native America: Beauty and Mysticism in American Indian Art, by Anna Lee Walters, she states, "Curiously though, no word exists in the hundreds of Native American languages that comes close to our definition of art. What does this mean? The answer is that the Indians did not set out to create art for its own sake. In traditional Indian thinking, there is no separation between art and life or between what is beautiful and what is functional. Art, beauty, and spirituality are so firmly intertwined in the routine of living that no words are needed, or allowed, to separate them." (Page 17) It is a very touching concept, and as an artist, although I know that there is a great deal of spirituality connected with creating my own art, I also know that art has been commercialized to the point that you almost feel guilty and separated while creating. Anna Walters eloquently states, "Too often, this art becomes separated from the unique environment that influenced its creation and development. Taken out of the tribal context and interpreted solely in terms of the dominant society's understanding of it, the most important perspective of all is conspicuously absent." (Page 19) I find it beautiful that in the Native American culture that art is part of spirituality and that because spirituality is a part of everything the Natives do, that every object, although functional has art incorporated into it, as a means of connecting with the world.