Objects of Art

Images from the Picturing America collection present Native American art from pre-historic Anasazi pottery, through nineteenth-century ledger art, to the pottery and basketry of the early twentieth century. Art created by non-Natives depicting Indian imagery are also included and give rise to a tension often expressed by Native American writers: how do we become the artists rather than the object of the art?

The books chosen for Objects of Art dramatize, in fiction, poetry, and mixed-genre, the struggle of a diverse people to control their own images. Night Sky, Morning Star gives a Pueblo view of the Southwest Indian Art Market. In Evidence of Red the stereotypes Noble Savage and Sports Team Mascot converse. A tribal art historian narrates Mending Skins. A brilliant painter’s breakdown is described, in Shadow Tag, through the eyes of his muse/wife, an American Indian scholar of the painter George Caitlin. In each book American Indian artists confront art about American Indians in complex plays of image and anti-image that make our own views of Native art more rich and real.

This theme is part of the Let’s Talk About It: Picturing America series. Other themes in this series include Land of Opportunity, Making Tracks, Places in the Heart, and The Work of Freedom: Individual and Communal.

Book List

Night Sky, Morning Star by Evelina Zuni Lucero

Evidence of Red by LeAnne Howe (poetry & mixed genre)

Mending Skins by Eric Gansworth

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Related Picturing America Images

1-A1—Anasazi Pottery, Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon by unknown

1A2—Sikyátki polychrome bowl by unknown

1A3—Jar by María Montoya Martínez and Julian Martínez

1A4—Beacon Lights by Louisa Keyser

1A5—Baleen basket by Carl Toolak

1-B—Mission Nuestra Señora de la Concepción de Acuña, San Antonio, Texas

5-B— The Last of the Mohicans Cover Illustration by N.C. Wyeth,

6-B—Catlin Painting the Portrait of Mah-to-toh-pa—Mandan, 1861/1869 by George Catlin

8-B—“Sans Arc Lakota” Ledger Book by Black Hawk

Program Brochure

Heid E. Erdrich is an author and independent scholar.

Download the scholar's essay and recommended reading list (PDF). Please note: The American Library Association is the copyright owner of this essay and annotations. The credit lines embedded in the program materials and/or sponsor and funder logos must remain on all published (print and web) materials derived from these materials.

How-To Discussion Programming Guides

Developed to aid participants in “The Millennium Project for Public Libraries,” this how-to guide (PDF) provides basic information about developing and promoting book discussion programs.

When planning a “Let's Talk About It” program, you may wish to consult the planner's manual (PDF) for general how-to information about program format, selecting a scholar, promoting your series, evaluation, and more.