In Search of Native American Aesthetics

by Leroy Meyer


The Native American Church meeting is one contemporary inter-tribal form of the ancient peyote spiritual tradition, represented throughout much of North America. With its deeply integrated elements of artistic expression, the cultural context of the peyote ceremony affords an approach to the major issues of Native American aesthetics. Is some universal aesthetic applicable to Native American art? Are there any aesthetically relevant connections among the widely diverse, Native American artistic cultures? Do traditional forms prevent the emergence of individual artistic styles? The answer to the third question is decidedly, “No,” says the writer. The answer to the second question is a more qualified, “Yes, to some degree”; and the answer to the first is a circumspect, “Perhaps.” Art of the peyote culture indicates these answers, which the author develops further in reference to other examples as well. More important, the art of Native American peyote culture demonstrates two significant characteristics of Native American art: that it is contextually integrated to a high degree; and, consequently, that artistic appreciation cannot be simply isolated from the spiritual dimension widely representative of the culture.

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Leroy Meyer






Art history, Native American

The Library