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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: February 24, 2016

Portland Museum of Art opens American Indians photo exhibition

Written by: Bob Keyes
Edward Curtis

“Joseph – Nez Perce (1903),” depicts Nez Perce Chief Joseph, known to his people as Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt. In the Edward Curtis photograph, Chief Joseph is outfitted in a decorated headdress and traditional Nez Perce accessories. While accurate, such adornment is not representative of his everyday dress.Photo courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

The Portland Museum of Art opens a photography show about American Indians on Friday that says as much about the subjects of the photos as the culture and times from which they came. “Selections from the North American Indian” by Edward Curtis will remain on view through May 29. It includes 25 photos of Indians that Curtis shot between 1907 and 1930.

The images were included in his book project, “The North American Indian.” Curtis attempted to document Indians and native culture, primarily across the American West and the Pacific Northwest. He made more than 2,000 photogravures, and his research represented the most comprehensive effort at the time to document Indian culture. He visited more than 80 tribes.

Curtis was criticized for romanticizing Indians, often asking them to wear ceremonial dress and adornments that were accurate but presented out of context. On the other hand, his work was valuable for its scope and completeness, and Curtis earned high marks for his photographic artistry. The museum contextualizes these works with commentary by contemporary Maine Indian artists Brenda Moore-Mitchell, George Neptune and David Moses Bridges. Visitors can access their remarks through audio recordings in the gallery.

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