Braveboy-Locklear, Barbara. “Real Indian art.” N.C. Arts 8.3 (Fall 1992). Reprinted in Shared Heritage (Heritage Arts, 1993) and in Pembroke Magazine 27 (1995): 10-11.
This insightful and well reasoned essay addresses many issues surrounding Indian art. The issues involve consumers, the artists themselves, and galleries and museums. Here is a summary of the issues:
-Many people have a limited, stereotypical image of Native American culture formed by photographs, history books, and the media that they want to cling to.
-As American Indian art has become increasingly valuable to collectors, issues of authenticity have arisen. How “authentic” are contemporary works which are made with new materials and technologies or don't seem to draw on the artist's cultural heritage? Indian artists themselves wonder, “To what extent may I work innovatively without losing my Indian identity?”
-Buyers of Indian art worry about whether works are “authentic or made just to sell.” Braveboy-Locklear disagrees with the assumption that if a work was made for the non-Indian trade, it is inauthentic.
-Contemporary Indian art is seriously underrepresented in American museums and galleries, perhaps because it often does not seem “traditional.” Curators and directors should visit places where contemporary Indian art is consistently displayed. They will see that “today American Indians exist in a diversity of contexts. Their art is evidence of that fact. There are no universal norms for Indian lives. There never were.”