NativeTech: Native American Technology & Art

A Discussion of Terms

Native American technicians and artists
Traditional tools and materials
Ideas expressed through art.

Ideas Expressed through Art

To interpret Native American art, one must identify who this art it is produced for and what messages it conveys. The cultural contexts of art may involve religion, politics, and divisions of labor. Art may express ideas of human creation, authority and prestige, or ideas about acceptable roles in that society. Although art may have practical application for a society, art also appeals directly to the imagination of the artist. Art is a visual way for people to reflect upon what is going on their cultural and natural environment, and allows others a way to see how people perceive their natural world.

Art conveys meaning with symbols and icons which are culture specific. There is usually no direct connection between the symbol and the object it represents. Symbols can have very different meanings to different cultures. As a result, to understand the symbolic aspects of art, one must know what the symbol means to the society which uses it. Artists must abide by the rules or conventions of their culture when they use symbols to communicate ideas. Often it is not possible to separate the everyday use of an object from the embellishment of that object.

Return to A Discussion of Terms

NativeTech Home Page
Text and Graphics
© 1994 - Tara Prindle
unless otherwise cited.