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Native Artists' Biographies
Art of the Northwest Coast
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Art of the Northwest Coast is a superbly illustrated and informed overview of the First Nations art of the Northwest Coast, covering the region from south of the Canada/U.S. border to Haida Gwaii and Alaska, and proceeding from prehistoric times to the present. Incorporating the social history of the region with the observations of historians of art and First Nations, and created in the spirit of the best-selling Thames & Hudson World of Art series, this groundbreaking volume examines how the upheavals of European contact affected the development of a powerful traditional art. Specifically, the text addresses each of the linguistic groups, revealing their quite separate origins, histories, mythologies and art forms and how these informed differing responses to the changes and difficulties brought about by contact with Europeans. Unlike many who consider the post-contact period a time of decline for First Nations "classical" artistic traditions and refined techniques, anthropologist Aldona Jonaitis argues convincingly to the contrary. She contends that rather than being lost, the traditions in the post-contact period were expressed in different ways, such as in tourist art made for sale instead of for community use, and that First Nations art is now flourishing, being recognized as art instead of as anthropological artifact. As proof she points to the increasingly wide respect for First Nations cultures, the repatriation of traditional artworks from major museums and the strong international demand for the best contemporary work from vibrant and constantly evolving cultural communities. Meticulously researched, compellingly written and beautifully designed with more than 150 often rare illustrations, Art of the Northwest Coast is a cornerstone addition to any library and essential reading for anyone interested in art, First Nations cultures and the evolution of both. Aldona Jonaitis is director of the Museum of the North and professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Previously, Jonaitis served as vice president for public programs at the American Museum of Natural History from 1989 to 1993. She holds a B.A. in art from SUNY and M.A. and Ph.D. in art history and archaeology from Columbia University. She has published widely on Northwest Coast art: her seminal books include Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch and From the Land of the Totem Poles.
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