Is it Kitsch? Camp? or Fine Art?
Glimpses of Indian Life
Making it Local
Authenticating the Inauthentic
Secularizing the Sacred
Mixing High and Low
Yearning for the Past

Authenticating the Inauthentic
Entrepreneurial Native artists innovated with new forms and styles to meet the needs of mass tourism.

They reinvented ashtrays, bookends, candlesticks, and flowerpots as sentimental merchandise that tourists wanted to buy. As time passed, these made-for-the-tourist-trade creations became known as forms of authentic expression. Polychrome Candlestick

For much of the last century, efforts to understand the Southwest have been based on the misnomer that Native cultures were disappearing. Scholars and collectors sought to rescue "authentic" culture from the ravages of outside influences. Anthropologists sought to salvage and document what they considered to be pure culture. In general, art produced before the 1880s was considered authentic, while works influenced by the collector's culture were dismissed as contaminated kitsch.

In 1926, Odd Halseth expressed these ideas succinctly in the Museum of New Mexico magazine El Palacio. He noted that:

Santo Domingo is perhaps producing more . . . curio pottery than all other pueblos . . . due to the fact that the pueblo is located near the transcontinental highway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe . . .. Crude figures of very inferior workmanship are each summer sold to the white people by the thousands . . . Ash trays, cream pitchers, book ends, spittoons, and other such articles . . . are copied in a wholesale fashion and peddled along the highways and in nearby towns.

Odd S. Halseth, El Palacio, 1926

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