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Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains

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A book that reflects the dynamic tradition of narrative art among Native nations of North America's Great Plains.

The volume traces the evolution of the art form from historical hides, muslins and ledger books to more than fifty contemporary works commissioned by the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Illustrating everything from war deeds and ceremonial events to pop culture, the selected artworks are as diverse as the individuals who created them.

Plains narrative art took shape through various media such as painted hide tipis, robes and shirts. In the late 19th century, as trade broadened, artists created elaborate scenes of battles and ceremonies on large muslin tipi liners. When ledger books became available, artists filled their pages with narrative drawings to record their past and preserve their cultures. Native artists began reviving "ledger art" in the 1970s, creating a vibrant form that takes on contemporary topics, uses a variety of media and is widely collected.

Edited by NMAI curator Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota), Unbound features historical masterworks by 14 artists and unveils new works from 11 contemporary artists commissioned by the museum exclusively for Unbound.


ISBN-13: 9781913875480

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Giles

Publication Date: 03-05-2024

Pages: 176

Emil Her Many Horses is an associate curator at the National Museum of the American Indian and the curator of the Unbound exhibition. A member of the Oglala Lakota Nation of South Dakota, he specializes in the Native cultures of the central plains. He was the lead curator of the museum's inaugural exhibition Our Universes: Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World, and co-curator of Identity by Design: Tradition, Change, and Celebration in Native Women's Dresses and A Song for the Horse Nation: Horses in Native American Cultures. Her Many Horses is also an award-winning artist who creates contemporary beadwork and dolls.

Lauren Good Day is an award-winning artist and fashion designer. She is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation) of the Ft. Berthold Reservation in North Dakota and a registered Treaty Indian with the Sweet Grass Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada. She has shown her work at prestigious Native American juried art shows such as the Santa Fe Indian Market, the Heard Guild Museum Market, and the Autry American Indian Arts Marketplace. Her work, which includes beadwork, quillwork, and regalia making in addition to narrative art, has been featured in numerous exhibitions at galleries and museums across the United States.

Michael P. Jordan is an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Texas Tech University. He specializes in museum anthropology, material culture, intangible cultural heritage, ethnohistory, and the expressive culture of Plains Indians.

David W. Penney is the associate director of museum scholarship at the National Museum of the American Indian and an internationally recognized scholar of American Indian art. Penney arrived at the Smithsonian in 2011 after a 31-year career at the Detroit Institute of Arts, where he last served as vice president of exhibitions and collections strategies. The author of North American Indian Art (2004), he has written, edited, and contributed to many other books and exhibition catalogues.