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What are Native American pictures called?

What are Native American pictures called?

Native American pictures encompass a wide variety of visual arts created by the indigenous peoples of North America. These include paintings, drawings, sculptures, textiles, ceramics, beadwork, quillwork, and more. The English terms used to describe different types of Native American pictures have evolved over time as scholars have worked to categorize and analyze these artworks within various frameworks.

Some of the key English terms used for Native American pictures include:

Petroglyphs Rock carvings or paintings
Pictographs Paintings or drawings on rock, skins, or bark
Ledger art Drawings or paintings on paper, cloth, or hides
Winter counts Pictorial calendars recording historical events
Tipi art Paintings on tipis and other hides
Pottery Painted or incised ceramics
Beadwork Decorative work with glass beads
Quillwork Decorative work with dyed porcupine quills
Carvings Sculptures in wood, stone, antler, etc.
Textiles Woven and embroidered cloth

The diversity of Native American cultures across North America over thousands of years has given rise to an enormous variety of artistic styles and genres. Categorizing this material can be complex, as art historians and anthropologists continue refining terminology to describe it appropriately. Some terms refer primarily to the medium or surface, while others denote function, style, subject matter, or other attributes. Additional context is often needed to fully understand what a given descriptive term signifies for a particular artwork or tradition.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs

Some of the earliest known Native American pictures are petroglyphs (rock engravings) and pictographs (rock paintings). These appeared across the continent over thousands of years, from the Desert Southwest to the Eastern Woodlands. Abstract symbols, representational images of humans, animals, and objects, and elaborate narrative scenes were all carved or painted onto stone surfaces.

Petroglyphs were made by incising, pecking, scratching, or abrading the rock face. Common tools included stone chisels, hammers, and picks. The patina or varnish on a rock surface exposes lighter-colored material when removed, creating a contrasting design. Pictographs involved applying pigments, usually mineral-based or vegetal colors like iron oxide, charcoal, and plant juices. Binding media like animal fats helped the pigments adhere to the stone.

Notable concentrations of rock art exist in places like the Dinwoody Lakes area of Wyoming, Crack Cave in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, and Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico. Images ranged from human handprints to bighorn sheep, abstract symbols, and cultural scenes depicting rituals and stories. Specific meanings and authorship are not always known, but show continuity of artistic expression and culture.

Paintings and Drawings

Native American pictures took painterly form on hides, bark, and other organic surfaces in addition to stone. Pigments derived from natural materials continued being used to create pictographs on these media. Subject matter included representations of warriors, horses, buffalo, eyewitness battle scenes, and visionary images from ritual and story. hide paintings were often portable and used in ceremonies or as teaching tools.

Plains tribes like the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Blackfeet became known for their painted buffalo hides after they acquired horses in the 1700s. Tipis, shields, robes, shirts, and moccasins were also painted with tribal symbols, battle scenes, and abstract geometric designs. Deerskin or muslin “ledger art” arose in the late 1800s as Native Americans had increasing access to ink, pencils, cloth, paper, and commercially produced paints through European trade.

Brilliantly colored Ledger drawings by Plains artists like Silver Horn and Howling Wolf recorded historical events and customs. Some Eastern Woodlands tribes adopted birch bark as an artistic surface. The Ojibwe often produced “scrolls” covered in intricate black ink drawings of people, animals, and patterns. Whether on stone, hide, bark, or paper, two-dimensional Native American pictures expressed identity and culture through symbolic imagery.

Sculpture and Ceramics

Native American cultures produced sculptural arts in many different materials for practical and ceremonial purposes. Totem poles carved from tall cedar trees by Northwest Coast tribes like the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian displayed clan crests and family histories. These towering, painted poles held cultural meaning about lineage, legends, and social status. The carving artistry of the poles represented important creative and spiritual work.

Smaller wooden carvings such as masks, rattles, clubs, utensils, and effigies all similarly held cultural meaning through their forms. The Iroquois and other Eastern tribes carved ritual false face masks from living trees to embody protective spirits. Kachina dolls carved by Hopi artists contained representations of spiritual beings. Stone sculpture also took many forms across Native cultures, as seen in effigies like the large rock Mid??wiwin manitous created by the Ojibwe.

Ceramics provided another important sculptural medium for Native artisans. Developed early on in the Southwest and Mississippi regions, Native pottery often featured painted or incised geometric designs, figures, and patterns. Pueblo artists in the Southwest painted bold black-on-white pottery with flowing motifs, while the Catawba and other tribes in the East made finely detailed pottery with regional styles.

Textiles, Beadwork, and Quillwork

Native American pictures and designs appeared on diverse textiles using various techniques. Navajo weavers produced intricate wearing blankets and rugs with regional patterns. On the Plains, women wove triangles of dyed porcupine quills into geometric patterns on clothing, moccasins, and accessories ??? a technique known as quillwork.

Great Lakes Ojibwe Flowers, vines, leaves, berries
Plains Diamonds, triangles, zigzags, waves
Plateau Rectangles, triangles, sawteeth
California Lightning, arrows, rattlesnakes
Southwest Terraced, stepped triangles

This table shows some regional characteristics of Native American quillwork designs. Quillwork was largely replaced by beadwork as glass beads became available through trade in the 1800s. Native artists innovated techniques for applying beads in floral, geometric, abstract, and representational patterns. Examples like Great Lakes Ojibwe floral beadwork and Plains Indian beaded bandolier bags demonstrated sophisticated artistry.

Whether painted, sewn, carved, or woven, Native American pictures were embedded with cultural meaning and artistic vision. Their creation and use connected with identity, values, spirituality, history, and ways of life. This rich visual tradition persevered despite upheavals, adapting new materials and influences to retain Native forms of expression.

Modern and Contemporary Art

Many Native American artists today blend traditional themes and methods with modern, postmodern, and contemporary styles in their work. Some draw directly on traditional materials and techniques, while others use painting, photography, video, installation, performance art, and digital media to communicate as contemporary artists.

Issues of identity, stereotypes, colonization, displacement, and social concerns appear alongside Native stories, history, and customs in much contemporary Native art. Artists such as Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Kay WalkingStick, Edgar Heap of Birds, and others have exhibited globally, while also teaching and mentoring younger generations. Museums and galleries increasingly highlight diverse Native American pictures from modern and contemporary artists.

The long, living stream of visual expression from ancient petroglyphs to today???s multimedia works reflects the creativity and resilience of Native cultures. Through images, Native American pictures convey worldviews, values, histories, and identities in ways both enduring and adaptive. Their diversity defies easy categorization, as unique artworks and traditions bred innovation across regions and eras. The search for suitable English terms to describe Native American pictures continues evolving as scholarship and appreciation deepens in parallel with the artists themselves.