Images from the North American Indian at Historic City Hall
Mingled Visions: Images from The North American Indian Collection by Edward S. Curtis will open at Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center Friday, April 13 from 5:30-8 pm. Admission is free, refreshments will be served.
Forty original photogravure prints by noted photographer and naturalist Edward S. Curtis will be on view through June 30. This selection of images presents an overview of Curtis’ monumental collection, The North American Indian. Curtis’ life’s mission was to systematically record the tribes he believed “still retained a considerable degree of their customs and traditions.” Famous works like “Geronimo” and “Cañon de Chelly – Navaho” will be on view along with iconic but less well-known images like “Bear Bull – Blackfoot” and “Wichita Grass House.”
A photogravure is a photographic image produced using a fine art printing technique, similar to an etching that was introduced in 1879. Curtis made his photographs on glass plate negatives and each image used one glass plate. He had to carry the fragile plates along with the rest of his equipment and supplies everywhere he went. He had assistants to help him but they travelled by horseback or boat and there were no roads to their destinations.
In1906, Curtis gained recognition and endorsement from President Theodore Roosevelt and financial backing from pioneering financier JP Morgan for a The North American Indian project. From 1895 to 1930, his output was staggering - in addition to visiting over 80 tribes and producing 20 volumes of text and 722 photogravures, he wrote 4 books, supervised 16 others, took more than 40,000 photographs, collected more than 350 myths and legends, made a feature length film, and compiled more than 10,000 recordings of music and speech in 75 different languages.
Despite Morgan’s backing, the massively expensive project was constantly at risk of being canceled. Curtis did not issue his final volume and folio set until 1930, almost 20 years after the expected completion date. Curtis’ vision and passion for the project never faltered but time was not on his side. As political and social norms changed over the decades, The North American Indian project fit into neither classification of art nor science, and virtually faded into obscurity. Fortunately, the collection was rediscovered in the 1970s and became recognized as one of the most significant records of Native culture ever produced.
This traveling exhibition is organized by the Dubuque Museum of Art, Dubuque, Iowa. The photogravures in the exhibition are from the permanent collection of the Dubuque Museum of Art and are a gift from the Dubuque Cultural Preservation Committee.
Historic City Hall is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted. Charlestown Farmers’ Market is open on Bilbo Street behind the center every Saturday 8 a.m.-noon. For more information, please call 491-9147 or visit www.cityoflakecharles.com.