Fenimore Art Museum Presents an Exploration of the American West Through the Eyes of Plains Indian Artists in New Exhibition

Publication Date: 
March 2007
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COOPERSTOWN, NY, March 20, 2007—Fenimore Art Museum presents Myth and Reality: The Art of the Great Plains, an exhibition of more than 25 narrative artworks by Plains Indian artists chronicling 19th-century life and culture on the Great Plains. Drawn from Fenimore’s Thaw Collection and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, these artworks tell the stories of the Plains Indians and unravel some of the myths surrounding the Great Plains. This exhibition will be on view through December 30, 2007.

For America and most of the world, the Great Plains evokes images of painted tipis, savage buffalo hunts, and warriors on horseback wearing elaborate feather headdresses. Frederic Remington, as well as other artists, anthropologists, explorers, businessmen, and Hollywood moviemakers have all had a hand in shaping a mythic vision of the American West. These stereotypes promoted in popular culture were so pervasive that many people came to accept them as fact.

Native American artists, however, created complex and individualized renditions of the reality of their own life and times. This exhibition features Plains artists’ representations from their own culture through four distinct subject areas: Horses, Women, The “Other” and the Battle of Little Bighorn. Each subject explores a richer, more nuanced, and personalized account of life on the Great Plains as experienced by the people that lived there.

Life histories and important events, such as battles, were recorded in narrative drawings and paintings on buffalo hides, muslin and paper. This exhibition includes several pictorial representations of the well-known confrontation between the United States Cavalry and the Plains Indians, The Battle of Little Bighorn, which took place in June of 1876 in today’s south-central Montana.

Myth and Reality: The Art of the Great Plains was guest curated by Joe D. Horse Capture, A’aninin (Gros Ventre), Associate Curator, Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The exhibition is funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

About the Fenimore Art Museum
One of the nation’s premier art institutions, the Fenimore Art Museum is home to an exceptionally rich collection of American folk art and American Indian art as well as important holdings in American decorative arts, photography, and twentieth-century art. Founded in 1945 in Cooperstown, New York, the museum is part of the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA), founded in 1899. The museum’s renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection, housed in the American Indian Wing, is a masterpiece collection of more than 800 art objects, representing a broad scope of North American cultures. The collections of folk and American art include seminal works by Grandma Moses, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, William Sidney Mount, Benjamin West, and John H. I. Browere. The museum offers a range of interactive educational programming for children, families, and adults, including lectures and workshops for museum visitors and distance learning instruction for classrooms nationwide. The museum further explores and examines our cultural history by organizing and hosting nationally touring art and history exhibitions, including Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation; Treasures from Olana: The Landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church; A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr.; Winslow Homer: Masterworks from the Adirondacks; and Ralph Fasanella’s America.

The Fenimore Art Museum is located on 5798 State Hwy. 80, Lake Road, in Cooperstown. The museum’s Fenimore Café, overlooking beautiful Otsego Lake, features wonderful views and a tranquil setting amid the terraced gardens. The Museum Shops offer fine jewelry, art reproductions, and a wide selection of publications on folk art, history, and Native American art. Museum admission is $11 for adults, $9.50 for visitors age 65 and over, and $5 for children age 7 to 12; children 6 and under and NYSHA members are admitted free. Reduced price combination admission tickets that include The Farmers’ Museum and The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum are also available. The museum is open from April 1 through December 30. For museum hours or general information, please call 1-888-547-1450 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org.

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For more information and images, please contact:
Christine Liggio, Public Relations Office
Fenimore Art Museum/ New York State Historical Association
Phone: (607) 547-1472/E-mail: c.liggio@nysha.org

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