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Carvings, paintings, effigies, or realistic portraits are not simply pictures of people or objects; they embody the essence of that particular subject as well. This semi-magical character of Native American art is difficult for the Western mind to understand. Ritual was often interwoven into the very process of creating Indian art.

Western assessment of Native American art often centres on the product rather than the process; Indian artists, however, give exacting attention to the creative process and interact with their materials at all stages of creation. The Iroquois False Face mask, for example, must be carved from the trunk of a living tree—hence the term live mask. Such prescribed ritual is of equal, if not more, importance than the artistic skill employed in the production of the work. If the ceremonial acts were ignored, the article would lose its efficacy—and might even prove dangerously counteractive. This ritual aspect, which permeates most of the ceremonial paraphernalia, is extremely complex and must be considered throughout the creation of the work of art.

Not all Indian art, however, was religious or political. There was also a considerable amount of mundane, humorous, and even profane art produced by most cultures. Although much of the eroticism has disappeared in the Puritan fires that continue to burn the Westerner, sufficient examples remain from prehistoric and recent times to indicate a wholly relaxed freedom of expression reflecting a healthy, naturalistic outlook. Working in the materials natural to their respective homelands, the various Native American cultures produced art that reflected their environment.

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Those peoples living in heavily forested regions, for example, inevitably became gifted sculptors in wood; those for whom clay was a major resource became skillful potters; and those living in the grasslands became fine basket weavers. There is virtually no natural medium that has not been explored and mastered by the Indian: jade, turquoise, shell, metals, stone, milkweed fibre, birch bark, porcupine quills, deer hair, llama dung, sea lion whiskers—all were used by the artist to lend colour or texture to the finished product.

Often, in such cases, the materials achieved a standard value within the economy, with ready acceptance as a medium of exchange wherever they were in vogue. The relationship between material and design in Indian art was quite different from that in the Western tradition. The Western painter usually imposed a design on the artificially limited surface of a flat, rectangular canvas; and the sculptor, following predetermined spatial arrangements, imposed a shape on his material. On the other hand, the Indian painter and sculptor were less likely to force their materials to conform to a preconceived design.

They tended instead to adapt their design to the natural outlines of their materials, which often happened to be a complete and therefore irregular buffalo hide, a tree branch, or a stone. The term Native American art covers an extremely broad category, encompassing all art expressions of the original inhabitants of the Americas and their cognate descendants. It thus includes not only varied and completely disparate cultures but also spans great time sequences—from the early 21st century back to prehistoric times. Surviving artifacts clearly demonstrate that ancient man was already possessed of considerable aesthetic ability; flint, for example, was carefully flaked into attractive, well-balanced forms, and stone carving and pottery were capably handled.

Although the dissimilarities between the artistic expressions of different cultures and different times are great, there are also similarities; for the borrowing of art forms from distant and occasionally alien peoples was a common practice. Objects in museum collections reveal, for example, that ornamental materials such as feathers, shells, jade, and turquoise were traded or transported thousands of miles.

This far-flung trade expanded the limits of tribal styles, for new ideas were diffused as well as materials. In time, new designs and motifs became part of the stylistic concepts and traditions of people to whom they had been introduced. Intertribal marriage, too, affected regional styles. While in some tribes marriage within the group was required, in others it was forbidden. In the latter case, artistic traditions could spread to the new group, into which they were subsequently incorporated.

It is becoming increasingly evident that there were common forces at work in the art of various groups, even if widespread in time and space. There are certain symbols that are widely encountered, and some would seem to have had similar significance over a wide area. It is likely that trade routes or political hegemony levied the major influences upon this phenomenon.

In Middle America , for example, the so-called Plumed Serpent motif is to be found in one form or another in almost every culture, and this motif extends even into the United States, where it is encountered in visual form as well as in legend. The existence of the feline deity virtually throughout South America , from the south up into the northern Andean region, is another instance of the travel of an idea and a visual element.

Certain customs also have enjoyed wide acceptance; for example, the role of trophy heads, the use of masked personations, and winter solstice New Fire ceremonies. And each of these customs was accompanied by related visual art expressions. Despite the similarities between the art forms of different cultural groups and different times, one cannot speak of Indian art as though it were a single concept. Just as there were several hundred native languages, dialects , and speech forms, so were there an equal number of tribal styles, motifs, and design forms.

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Craftsman, by Richard Sennett | Center for Practical Theology

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    The Wisdom of the Hands, and Craftsmanship as Heritage

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    Concrete Lawn Ornaments is mostly involved in Concrete Products. They will be a talking point in your garden for years to come as it won't rust or crack over time. Ask me about delivery or more products. Sennett employs the word vocation appropriately here. Sennett talks about two kinds of play. While both types of play are important, Sennett shows the importance of this second type of play often present in boredom.

    Sennett argues, however, that there are only three basic abilities that are fundamental to craftsmanship: the ability to localize, to question, and to open up Craftwork is essentially the ability to do good work, something we all possess, and something that is innate to humans and commonly practiced so long as relationship, community, and working together remains possible.

    Like Inge, Sennett avoids nostalgia of a time past and develops a multi-faceted description of the subject using philosophy, theology, economics, sociology, and history. Sennett has much to offer theology in this text, and many questions worth considering. With regard to theology of work, does a theological rendering of work properly allow for ambiguity, imagination, and play? Ultimately, I find The Craftsman to be a compelling argument for the dynamic matrix-like development of knowledge, character, and community.

    All three of these, Sennett argues and I agree, are severely damaged when work is not understood as craft.