The story is old but the effects are real and lasting: The American Indians—robbed of land and home, attacked, butchered and segregated— are now at best a marginalized minority. Theirs is a heritage of tribes that spanned our continent with culture rich in ideology and spirit. The Splendid Heritage exhibition at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts revisits this vibrant, dynamic tradition in a collection of artistic products of the American Indian, honoring their past and present.
This indigenous population is represented in the exhibition by artistic objects from 28 tribes of the Great Basin, plains, plateau and northeast from the collection of John and Marva Warnock.
This assemblage of 145 items, including 43 dated from before 1859, is monumental historically and artistically. These pieces provide aesthetic cultural manifestations of the American Indian. Beaded tobacco bags, weapons, dolls, cradles, war shirts, dresses, moccasins and more are displayed with craftsmanship and sophistication that will never be duplicated and are comparable to the greatest aesthetic production of any civilization.
The American Indian philosophies of spiritual harmony, balance, order in life and the universe were (and are) very much a part of their society.
As one sees the creations on display, it becomes evident that American Indians used their highly developed aesthetic excellence to express their philosophies in beautiful objects of everyday life. Said Marva Warnock, “This culture can be fully appreciated on an artistic level.” (Ehren Clark)
Splendid Heritage @ Utah Museum of Fine Arts, 410 Campus Center Dr., 801-581- 7332 through Jan. 3, 2010, closed Mondays. SplendidHeritage.com