Art is an integral element of Native American culture. Native American art encompasses a diverse variety of styles including: painting, beading, jewelry, textiles and carving. Just like in many other societies, Native American art is frequently used as an expression of their history and culture. Paintings in Native American art are often integral in telling stories as well as passing on and preserving their history.
Native American Art Forms
Certain traditional Native American Art forms, such as basket weaving, served both artistic and practical purposes. The women would spend many hours weaving together these intricately detailed Native American art baskets, which would then also be used for transportation needs. This ancient Native American art practice has been dated back to almost 8000 years ago. These woven baskets are often very colorful with complicated designs on them.
Aside from adding colorful and decorative detail to clothing and other items, beadwork holds significant important within Native American communities. In addition to its aesthetic beauty, this Native American art form was used as a way of identification within groups. Although a Native American art form amongst some tribes, beadwork was also used as a form of currency. Beadwork also plays an important role in many life ceremonies and rituals, such as marriages, funerals and births. Special beaded items are used as adornment for these celebratory occasions.
One of the most commonly known Native American art forms in Western culture is the wooden totem pole. Although most people can easily recognize this Native American art style, many people are unaware of the meaning and significance behind these carvings. This Native American art style is a way of expressing a cultural story. Frequently, faces or animals, such as fish or birds are seen carved on this Native American art type.
Another popular type of Native American art is dreamcatchers. Traditionally, dreamcatchers are formed from willow. The will is bent into a circular shape, and then wrapped with animal sinew which forms a web similar to a spider’s web. Dreamcatchers were hung over a child’s bed in order to prevent or “catch” bad dreams.
The dreamcatcher as a Native American art form has now also become popular in Western culture. Although traditional dreamcatchers were actually quite small in diameter, usually only 3 to 5 inches, this Native American art form can now be found in all kinds of sizes made with various materials. Many dreamcatchers are additionally decorated with beadwork.