What is Indian art? There have been many attempts to define it, but the so-called Santa Fe style of the 1930s—placid, two-dimensional depictions of traditional scenes—set the standard by which subsequent art by Native Americans would be judged. Art that radically challenged the stereotype—the work of Joe Herrera, Fritz Scholder, and T. C. Cannon, for example—met with resistance; questions were raised about its authenticity as Indian art.
Today's Indian art has resoundingly overturned old preconceptions: here are cartoon figures in throbbing neon colors, "decorated" grocery bags, messages to America on the Spectacolor billboard in Times Square, delicate abstractions and cubist images, work that ranges from monotype and photography to mixed media and clay, from humor and biting commentary to quiet introspection.
I Stand in the Center of Good, the first book of its kind, offers a forum for seventeen contemporary Native American artists to speak about the development of their art, their creative processes, how they define their art, and how it relates to their Indianness. The interviews are handsomely illustrated with works by the artists, who include Rick Glazer-Danay, Shan Goshorn, Hachivi Edgar Heap of Birds, Rick Hill, G. Peter Jemison, Michael Kabotie, Frank LaPena, Carm Little Turtle, Linda Lomahaftewa, George Longfish, Mario Martinez, Nora Naranjo-Morse, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Susan Stewart, Frank Tuttle, Kay WalkingStick, and Emmi Whitehorse.
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Lawrence Abbott teaches English and Humanities at the Community College of Vermont in Middlebury. He has written for Studies in American Indian Literatures, American Indian Quarterly, and Akewe:kon Journal.
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