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Saint Louis Art Museum publishes 'Plains Indian Art of the Early Reservation Era'
Moccasins, c.1880; Lakota (Sioux); tanned hide, rawhide, glass seed beads, and cotton cloth; each: 3 1/2 × 4 5/8 × 11 1/8 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, The Donald Danforth Jr. Collection, Gift of Mrs. Donald Danforth Jr. 100:2010a,b.

ST. LOUIS, MO.- The Saint Louis Art Museum recently published Plains Indian Art of the Early Reservation Era, an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural examination of one of the Midwest’s great public collections of Native American art.

In 2010, Carolyn Danforth gave the museum 251 works of Plains Indian art collected by her late husband, Donald Danforth Jr. The catalogue examines not only Donald Danforth Jr. and his sensibilities as a collector of Native American art, but also situates the artworks as evidence of remarkable creativity in the context of tumultuous historical change.

The 248-page, fully illustrated catalogue is available for purchase at the museum and online.

St. Louis businessman and philanthropist Donald Danforth Jr. (1932-2001) developed a love for Native American culture and the West in his childhood. He later amassed a collection made by members of Indigenous groups from the Plains and Plateau when Native Americans were adapting their mobile, equestrian lifestyles to the confines of reservations.

The Danforth Collection is particularly strong in beadwork and quillwork on hide, including moccasins, pipe bags, assorted bags, pouches and cases, jewelry, children’s items and horse regalia. Highlights include Lakota (Sioux) moccasins, a Transmontane parfleche, an Inde (Apache) dress and an Apsáalooke (Crow) martingale.

“The Saint Louis Art Museum has collected Native art from North America since the first decades of the twentieth century, but it owes its new strength in Plains art to the gift of the Danforth Collection,” Brent R. Benjamin, the Barbara B. Taylor director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, wrote in the catalogue’s foreword. “It is a remarkable complement to the Museum’s prior holdings, of which singular masterworks from the Northwest Coast and Arctic have been a hallmark.”

Presenting richly varied perspectives, catalogue contributors include scholars, artists and practitioners—many of whom are Native American members of the communities from which the artworks originated.

Plains Indian Art of the Early Reservation Era is edited by Jill Ahlberg Yohe, assistant curator of Native American art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and formerly assistant curator and Andrew W. Mellon post-doctoral fellow at the Saint Louis Art Museum, with editorial consultant Janet Catherine Berlo, professor of art history and Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester.

The catalogue includes essays by artist Arthur Amiotte; artist Kathy Dickerson; artist Teri Greeves; Emil Her Many Horses, associate curator at the National Museum of the American Indian; Joe D. Horse Capture, associate curator at the National Museum of the American Indian; Michael Jordan, assistant professor of anthropology at Texas Tech University; John P. Lukavic, associate curator of Native arts at the Denver Art Museum; Timothy P. McCleary, professor at Little Big Horn College; David W. Penney, associate director of museum scholarship at the National Museum of the American Indian; author and art dealer Richard Pohrt Jr., artist Wendy Red Star, Dan Swan, associate curator of ethnology at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History; John White Antelope; and Gordon Yellowman, an artist, educator, historian and Cheyenne Peace Chief.

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