Objects of Art

Images from the Picturing America collection present Native American art from pre-historic Anasazi pottery, through nineteenth-century ledger art, to the pottery and basketry of the early twentieth century. Art created by non-Natives depicting Indian imagery are also included and give rise to a tension often expressed by Native American writers: how do we become the artists rather than the object of the art?

The books chosen for Objects of Art dramatize, in fiction, poetry, and mixed-genre, the struggle of a diverse people to control their own images. Night Sky, Morning Star gives a Pueblo view of the Southwest Indian Art Market. In Evidence of Red the stereotypes Noble Savage and Sports Team Mascot converse. A tribal art historian narrates Mending Skins. A brilliant painter’s breakdown is described, in Shadow Tag, through the eyes of his muse/wife, an American Indian scholar of the painter George Caitlin. In each book American Indian artists confront art about American Indians in complex plays of image and anti-image that make our own views of Native art more rich and real.

This theme is part of the Let’s Talk About It: Picturing America series. Other themes in this series include Land of Opportunity, Making Tracks, Places in the Heart, and The Work of Freedom: Individual and Communal.

Book List

Related Picturing America Images

  • 1-A1—Anasazi Pottery, Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon by unknown
  • 1A2—Sikyátki polychrome bowl by unknown
  • 1A3—Jar by María Montoya Martínez and Julian Martínez
  • 1A4—Beacon Lights by Louisa Keyser
  • 1A5—Baleen basket by Carl Toolak
  • 1-B—Mission Nuestra Señora de la Concepción de Acuña, San Antonio, Texas
  • 5-B— The Last of the Mohicans Cover Illustration by N.C. Wyeth,
  • 6-B—Catlin Painting the Portrait of Mah-to-toh-pa—Mandan, 1861/1869 by George Catlin
  • 8-B—“Sans Arc Lakota” Ledger Book by Black Hawk

Program Brochure

Heid E. Erdrich is an author and independent scholar.

Download the scholar's essay and recommended reading list (PDF). Please note: The American Library Association is the copyright owner of this essay and annotations. The credit lines embedded in the program materials and/or sponsor and funder logos must remain on all published (print and web) materials derived from these materials.

How-To Discussion Programming Guides

Developed to aid participants in “The Millennium Project for Public Libraries,” this how-to guide (PDF) provides basic information about developing and promoting book discussion programs.

When planning a “Let's Talk About It” program, you may wish to consult the planner's manual (PDF) for general how-to information about program format, selecting a scholar, promoting your series, evaluation, and more.