Sunday, April 19, 2009

no word for art


American Indians have no word for art
but find in the object the way to its source,
directing us all to the spirit that’s part
of nature that’s silent while running its course.

If all things could be all the things that they can,
and people did only the things that they should,
the world would be playing, as when it began,
idyllically, violins made out of wood.

Roberta Smith reviews an exhibition called “The Responsive Eye: Ralph T. Coe and the Collecting of American Indian Art,” at the Metropolitan Museum (‘A Collector’s-Eye Look at North American Art,” the NYT, September 12). Mr. Coe started collecting American Indian Art in 1973, and includes many Haida totem poles, Osage blankets, Onondaga, Pequot and Pomo baskets, a terra-cotta pot by Maria and Julia Martinez of San Ildefonso and a wide-eyed Yagim mask by George Walkus, a Kwakwaka’wakw active in the 20’s. Mr. Coe points out in the catalogue that none of the many Indian languages have a word for art. Roberta Smith ends her article by saying:
What may stay in your mind is the seeming determination, conscious or not, that every object should be all that it could be---which may be all the definition of art that is needed.

© 2003 Gershon Hepner 9/12/03

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