Since 1990, the United States has proudly celebrated National Native American Heritage Month each November. In highlighting resources on the work of Indigenous artists featured in the collections of the Frick Art Reference Library, this reading list pays tribute to the ample contributions Native Americans have made to the rich history of this country and its art, from centuries ago through to the present day.
Browse through these selections in our reading room, open by free appointment at Frick Madison. The two e-books included in the list are available to all users remotely with the creation of free Internet Archive and ProQuest Ebook Central accounts.
To discover more resources on Native American art from the library’s collections, explore the Indigenous section of our Bibliography of BIPOC Artists, Collectors, and Dealers.
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map
By Laura Phipps (2023)
Weave through the five decades of multidisciplinary work that comprises Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s oeuvre as she contemplates the complex issues of land, memory, racism, and environmentalism. Accompanying a recent exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, this catalogue represents the institution’s first retrospective show by an Indigenous artist. A citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, Smith uses traditional Native American symbolism, paired with her love of Neo-Expressionist and Pop art, to juxtapose nostalgia with satire and sentimentalism with critique, ultimately questioning the stories we are told through visual language.
Kindred Spirits: Native American Influences on 20th Century Art
By Peter Blum (2011)
Have you ever noticed similarities between Native American motifs and modern art? This book delves into the work of twentieth-century and modern-day artists including Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Martin, and Max Ernst through the lens of the art of fourteen Native American peoples in the American Southwest. Paired with contemporaneous anthropological views of Indigenous peoples, this title sheds light on the often unacknowledged sources of famed modern artists’ innovations.
Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe
Edited by Kathleen E. Ash-Milby and Bill Anthes (2022)
Embracing individualism while promoting the expression of Sioux culture, Oscar Howe is known for his vibrant paintings filled with movement and repeating forms. Dakota Modern is the first retrospective—published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian—that fully surveys the artist’s career. Howe had to constantly refute claims that his art was not representative of his culture, as his explorations of abstraction and expressionism clashed with the “pretty, stylized pictures” that were expected of Native American art. Replete with biographical information and stunning full-color images, this text demonstrates Howe’s artistry and the immense impact he had on broadening views of Indigenous art.
Hold Everything! Masterworks of Basketry and Pottery from the Heard Museum
By Jody Folwell (2001)
Discover the remarkable, often overlooked beauty of quotidian objects through this gorgeously designed catalogue. Freely accessible through the Internet Archive, this title highlights the utility and aesthetics of woven and ceramic works from the Southwestern United States and accompanied a traveling exhibition by Phoenix’s Heard Museum. The book features essays by Native American artists that present their unique perspectives on Indigenous arts, allowing the reader to gain an in-depth look at the traditional creations of the Hopi, Pomo, O’odham, and Panamint peoples.
Fire Light: The Life of Angel De Cora, Winnebago Artist
By Linda Waggoner (2008)
Angel De Cora, who lived at the turn of the twentieth century, was regarded as “the first real Indian artist” and was accepted within the mainstream art world and as a major figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement. During her lifetime, she exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair, helped found the Society of American Indians, and established the country’s first “Native Indian” art program at Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian School. De Cora embraced Native American traditions in her art, while experimenting with tonalism, impressionism, realism, and abstraction in ways that expressed her Winnebago identity. Learn more about her life and culture in this fascinating biography.
Unsettling Canadian Art History
Edited by Erin Morton (2022)
Though November’s celebration is observed in the United States, the original boundaries of many Indigenous nations crossed into modern-day Canada. Challenging traditional Western notions of visual and material culture, this important publication compiles fifteen scholarly texts that highlight the art of people who identify as Indigenous, Black, trans, queer, feminist, Two-Spirit, and/or part of a racialized diaspora. The authors confront and recognize the true harm caused by colonialism, while also considering how anti-racist art, creative practices, and archives can contribute to the possibility of a decolonial future.
Shifting Grounds: Landscape in Contemporary Native American Art
By Kate Morris (2019)
The landscape has been a source of inspiration for artists for centuries, from the single-point perspective of the European Renaissance to less naturalistic forms in Abstract Expressionist compositions and, later, as a canvas itself in Land Art. Shifting Grounds—available as an e-book with a free ProQuest Ebook Central account—relays how landscape is presented, reinvented, and explored as a theme in contemporary Indigenous art. In this groundbreaking book, learn how Native American artists of the past thirty years have superseded the purely visual to create works engaging all five senses that are simultaneously subjective and representative of place-based knowledge.
Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison
By Kristin Makholm and W. Jackson Rushing III (2013)
This richly illustrated catalogue of a traveling exhibition organized by the Minnesota Museum of American Art explores how Chippewa abstractionist George Morrison confounded stereotypes of the Native American artist and modern artist through various media. Morrison’s work—which ranges from geometric found-wood sculptures to expressionistic compositions and his iconic Technicolor landscape paintings of his home state of Minnesota—is self-referential and veers away from traditionally employed iconography. This publication charts the trajectory of Morrison’s assertions as a modernist, from New York to France to Provincetown and finally back to Minnesota.
All photos by Joseph Coscia Jr., The Frick Collection