264 pages, 8 x 10
28 photos, 12 in colour
Release Date:30 Nov 1999

Privileging the Past

Reconstructing History in Northwest Coast Art

UBC Press

What makes Northwest Coast Native American art authentic? And why,when most of art history is a history of the avant-garde, is traditionso deeply valued by contemporary Native American artists and theirpatrons? In Privileging the Past Judith Ostrowitz approachesthese questions through a careful consideration of replicas,reproductions, and creative translations of past forms of NorthwestCoast dances, ceremonies, masks, painted screens, and houses. Ostrowitzexamines several different art forms -- two very differentarchitectural constructions, a dance performance, and modern sculpturesand dance paraphernalia -- considering their relations to arts of thepast.

Ostrowitz draws on an extensive body of interviews she conductedwith tribal leaders, artists, and artisans long known and highlyrespected in both Native and non-Native venues. Throughout the book, wehear their voices -- members of the Alfred, Cranmer, Hunt, Tallio andWebster families, and many other individuals -- as they relate theirresponses to the modern adaptation of their cultural heritage.

Privileging the Past explores intellectual issues raised bypostmodern theory, supported by detailed studies of projects that willinterest a boad audience of students, historians, museum-goers, andthose intrigued by Native American art and cultural history.

Ostrowitz’s emphasis on how Natives of the Northwest Coast continually reconstruct history in their visual culture is an important contribution to the fields of art history, anthropology and Native studies. Lianne McTavish, Acadiensis
Judith Ostrowitz is an art historian and mixed mediaartist living in New York. She is a lecturer at Yale University, hastaught at Columbia University, and is a former assistant curator at theBrooklyn Museum of Art. Among her publications is a contribution toChiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch.

Foreword by Nelson Graburn



1. Expedience and Classicism at the Chief Shakes Community House

2. The Map and the Territory in the Grand Hall at the CanadianMuseum of Civilization

3. Making Dance History: Kwakwaka'wakw Performance Art at theAmerican Museum of Natural History

. False Cognates: Looking Backward at the Latest Thing inContemporary Northwest Coast Art

5. The Style in Which They Were Imagined




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