Native American Modern Art & Film

Native American Modern Art & Film

We’ve had a brief look at ancient Native American art, but what about modern art and film? When someone says “Native American Art” the first thing that comes to most peoples minds are beadwork and feathered headpieces. It is so much more than this however. There are many art museums dedicated solely to Native American contemporary creations, as well as film festivals that are Native American based.

One such place is the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, who began their Native American film festival. It originally started out in 1979 when one of its founders was asked to create a film series that would be used to accompany one of its exhibitions. However, this turned into a film screening that lasted most of the summer and began the first Native American Film and Video Festival. The festival focuses on Native American film and issues of the indigenous people. It has been running for 35 years.

Contemporary Native American art tends to reflect how native creativity has been changed over the centuries by their ever changing way of life. One place where this can be seen is at the National Museum of the American Indians as part of their Modern and Contemporary Art Collection. Many paintings, ceramics and drawings have been showcased in this collection, as well as both household goods and ceremonial objects.

The unique aspect of modern art from Native American’s is that they have a unique perspective on today’s issues that non-Native Americans would otherwise miss.

Nerman Museum in Kansas is another place that showcases the blending of traditions with modern art trends. One can find laptop covers made completely from beaded Native American designs, rugs weaved using bold and contemporary colours and patterns,tribal masks with a modern twist, and many unique paintings and drawings.

Then there is the filming industry. When I say Native American film, I am not referring to American portrayals of Native American culture. I mean films that have been created by Native Americans and places that encourage and support them in this type of media.

One such place is Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program. This program has been running for over 20 years and is committed to supporting indigenous filmmakers, allowing for tremendous growth in the media field for Native Americans and helping to get these films and creations into the mainstream. The program scouts for young artists and then helps them to get their ideas and projects made and seen. Native Americans are some of the best story tellers, considering they used stories to pass down their knowledge and ancestry. This program is helping to inspire a whole new generation of story tellers!

San Francisco has been hosting an annual Native American film festival for the past 30 years, which showcases fictional films and documentaries create by Native Americans. It also has workshops that help to learn about filmmaking and filming’s history amongst Indigenous people.

I think films are one of the best ways for self expression because they touch us on an emotional level and tell the story of the creator.


Posted in Art