10 Ways Cultural Identity Has Influenced North Americas Art
All of us have different ways of expressing ourselves, our emotions and our beliefs. Most of us do it colloquially while some make use of their creative side which includes music, writing and art. Art has been an important part of human existence in one form or another. So has been different cultures.
The symbiotic relationship between art and cultural identity has been considerably meaningful since the dawn of art in the world, for it had helped with self-expression in a world that was keen on suppressing it. From Diego Rivera to Abanindranath Tagore, history is filled with examples of artists who used art as means of expressing themselves and their cultural identity.
We know cultural identity influences art, but to what extent? Is it only a contributing factor or does it drive the entire motivation behind a particular piece of art, be it conscious or subconscious?
Now more than ever, we as individuals are using art to figure self and cultural identity, making it a powerful aid in the ongoing cultural movements. Artists create art on the basis of their lived experiences. Their experiences end up being expressed on the canvas, be it consciously or subconsciously, and they won’t even necessarily be aware about it.
People usually signify art by displaying it on their walls for ornamental purposes and to please the eye but is there more to it than that?
Art is born out of everyday experiences and serves as a necessary form of self-expression. This in itself makes art, not just a pretty picture on a canvas but a reflection of an artist and their vulnerability. An intrinsic relationship exists between art, cultural identity, and lived experiences. This fact alone makes this artwork mean so much more and worthy of an investigation.
An Expression of The Community
What gives you as a community a forum to express yourself? Many communities and cultures feel like they are underrepresented and need recognition. One way of doing that is by using art as aid to express yourselves.
Self-expression in the form of art gives you an insight into an artist’s life and ethnic background. It reflects the community to which the artist belongs. This interpretation of art paves the way for recognizing and preserving the cultural identity and the community for the times to come.
What may feel like just a piece of art to you or others, may just be the reflection of who they are to an artist and the community.
Artists usually explore the attributes that make our self and social identity. They create a sense of who we are as individuals, society, and as a nation. They question the stereotypes while voicing their concerns for their race, gender, nationality, sexuality, and heritage and demand change in their own unparalleled way.
Culture is an amalgamation of social endeavours, style, music, technology, politics, performance, and arts, and we as artists try to portray just these things in our art.
Cultural practices in art that embody cultural values make the people heard and recognized, giving them a sense of citizenship and mental peace. This helps contribute to an individual and collective sense of identity.
It is a self-affirmation practice that helps us to interpret, reflect on, add to or challenge our cultural beliefs.
How Cultural Identity Melds With North American Art
Indigenous visual arts span thousands of years across America. The primary role of indigenous artists is to evoke an emotional response in their audience. In the Native American cultures, the artist’s ability to communicate is largely dependent upon the recognition of the force of tradition.
However, before the Europeans discovered the ‘new world,’ Native American Art was entirely unknown. In North America, Nampeyó, the famous Hopi Potter, María Martínez, and Julián Martínez are perhaps one of the most notable artists with impressive careers. Through sheer talent, these people accomplished a personal triumph by developing a style that was not only copied by other artists but, in time, was also regarded as ‘traditional’ in their particular village.
North American artists now are creating art more freely through their everyday experiences. Establishing self-identity is vital within minority groups searching for their cultural identity, in a deep and rich heterogeneous society.
We are now inspired to look for a deeper meaning and broader participation in artistic work because of various psycho-social reasons that they identify with. We are currently navigating our artistic skills to explore the sense of self, cultural identity, and gender issues which are largely based on our lived experiences.
These artists have broken away from traditional cultural expectations and are overcoming social barriers. These artists are worthy of investigation since they are culturally motivated expressions of multifaceted experiences in our society.
1. Stereotypes Persevering In The Community
Stereotypes persevere when addressing Native American arts and cultures, and sorrowfully many people remain ignorant of the complex and engaging stories of Native peoples and their art. Too many people still assume a combatant or chief on horseback bearing a feathered headdress or a lovely young “princess” in an animal hide dress.
Popular culture and movies immortalize these images. They homogenize the unimaginable multifariousness of Native groups over North America. There are too many diverse languages, cultural beliefs, cosmologies, and ritual traditions to appropriately make general comments about the cultures and languages of the indigenous communities of what is now the United States and Canada.
2. The Portrayal Of The Communities
For many years, the term primitive has been used to define the art of Native families and First Nations. This word is very problematic, and shows the distorted spectacles of colonialism through which these organizations have been seen and misinterpreted. After meeting, Europeans and Euro-Americans often considered the Amerindian peoples of North America as gentle savages.
This legacy has influenced the acceptance and recognition of Native arts, which is why much of it was originally collected by anthropological museums. Many people saw Native objects as oddities or as specimens of “dying” cultures. Which in part reveals why many articles were seized or otherwise taken without the approval of Native peoples.
Many holy objects, for example, were extracted and put on exhibit for non-Native audiences. While much has improved, this legacy lives on, and it is necessary to be conscious of and surmount the many stereotypes and prejudices that continue from prior centuries.
3. Personal Identity Tied to The Community
Cultural identity is a person’s sense of relating to a distinct culture, but does cultural identity influence the creation of art? Each character needs a specific direction of his life, which he can find only in the community of other people, which circumscribes cultural identity.
A person’s perception of their own community, allowing them to realise their place in the socio-cultural space, and easily operate the world around them, is connected with the notion of cultural identity.
The nature of cultural identity rests in the fact that a person consciously receives the relevant cultural norms and models of behaviour, power orientations, and communication. Cultural identity has a certain influence on the method of intercultural interaction. So, it assumes a set of certain stable features, thanks to which some cultural wonders or people evoke in us a feeling of solace or aversion. Depending on this, we decide the suitable type, style, and method of communication with them.
4. Spiritual Connection With Art
Art serves as a mode of creative expression, communication, and a primordial facet of human existence, hence constituting a great deal in the evolution of religion.
There is an intimacy between art and religion that prevails beyond historical convolutions. These transformations have affected the cultural and religious values of North America.
Religious paintings glorify and narrate the story of religion in a picturesque way. They keep religious traditions viable and make it easier for people to visualize an event that would otherwise be hard to imagine via the use of mere words.
The link between art and religion has endured diversification- from their variation within different cultures to their manifestations in the human psyche. We can see the different blends in art and religion in our societies today.
5. The Issue With Terms
The word Indian is deemed insulting to many peoples. The term derived from the Indies and was invented after Christopher Columbus crashed into the Caribbean islands in 1492, thinking that he had found India. Other terms are both problematical and non-exclusive. You might find many various terms to represent the communities in North America, such as Native American, American Indian, Native, Indigenous, First Nations, and First Peoples.
These terms apply to communities throughout the Americas, and the Native peoples of North America, from Panama to Alaska and northern Canada, are especially diverse. It is, therefore, necessary to designate individual cultures as much as we possibly can.
The uncertainty of their identity causes rifts in the acceptance of their art and traditional practices.
Today the US Federal Government recognises 567 tribal nations, mostly through historic treaties. Many social issues exist in these tribes, like many other indigenous communities throughout the world. Tribes are often afflicted by poverty, poor health and discrimination, including issues around criminal and civil jurisdiction.
6. Ethnic Identity
One of the most vital parts of ethnic identity is the shared history and experiences of people. This history then becomes our heritage. And when heritage, ethnicity, and culture are connected, it reveals a complex story about what it means to be a North American.
An ethnicity is a group that usually has the same cultural traditions and common traits like a common language, heritage, attributes, and features. North American art can, therefore, be expressed through various ethnic and cultural identities.
7. Expression Of Identity And Self-Determination Through Media
Cultural identity depends on verbal, artistic, and other stories made in a particular time and location. Rituals, clothing, and images show traditions that connect an individual to a group.
North American artists usually explore the characteristics that determine our personal and social identity. They construct a sense of who we are individually and as a society.
They question conventions and stereotypes and explore qualities such as gender, race, sexuality, nationality, and heritage. Our culture is influenced by different kinds of artistic and social endeavours like style, technology, music, politics, performance, and art.
In recent years, indigenous peoples have started utilizing media and other art forms to represent their own points of view. These cultural activists offer views that counter-trends such as “Disneytization” and “McDonaldization” empower their communities and frame storylines that include indigenous views.
In other words, indigenous artists and writers working in the media are proposing an indigenous perspective.
This assists the non-indigenous public, about indigenous issues and actualities, while at the same time maintaining their cultural heritage for their own communities’ futures.
Indigenous media activists are also advancing their right to self-determination and community control of the cultural property.
8. Cultural Identity Expressed Through Gender
One of the impactful ways of expressing cultural identity is through gender. In recent times, the ideas about one’s gender have socially and scientifically advanced in recent years. These ideas have become both more complex and fluid in North American cultures.
Most North American cultures now are not confined to the two genders and sexuality. This has made gender fluidity to be a part of the fabric of our society. This fluidity is being expressed to a considerable degree in the artworks of recent North American artists.
9. Abidance To Famous North American Art Styles And Techniques
Before colonisation, rich and complex art traditions flourished among many indigenous residents of North America. The artwork of the Native Americans has a highly characteristic vocabulary. The use of complex geometric patterns and abstracted forms evoked the natural world and symbolized ancestral stories.
Most of these art objects were intended to perform a service. From acting as a container or to provide a means of worship and reflect the social organization of the cultures involved.
Native American art also symbolizes the respect the tribes had for animals. In particular, Totem poles depict illustrations of family lineage and the cultural heritage of the various tribes. They usually have animal faces carved into them, along with supernatural beings such as the Thunderbird.
By preserving these styles and techniques of the Native American artists, we are preserving our heritage and expressing our cultural roots.
For example, performance art means art exhibition made through actions carried out by the artist or others. It may be live demonstration, documentation, spontaneously, or written, shown to the public in the context of art.
It has been advanced through the years as a genre of its own, having an important and fundamental role in North American art.
Performance art involves four core elements: space, time, body, and the artist. The actions created in art galleries and museums can take place in the street or in any kind of setting at any time.
10. North America’s Art Represented through Stone Carvings, Sculptures to Architecture
There are as many reasons for carving stone as there are for anything that provides the opportunity for artistic expression, purely from having an income, accomplishing a mission, satisfying a hobby, or creatively challenging oneself.
As stone masonry work is the oldest skilled trade, stone carving is most likely the oldest art form in North America. Moreover, stone sculpture requires many skills and a cognitive sense of proportion, balance, and scale; the artist needs to be able to interpret the possibilities and limitations of a particular stone and technical tool skills.
Most of the histories of the North American decorative designs have been lost in antiquity. Many were acquired from natural forms, while others are simple creations of art.
However, some original architectural models were creations of individual artists and were often the result of a vision quest. To the American, the world of the vision quest is mysterious, a place where the soul can leave the body, take part in several strange things and view a lot of unusual sights.
Since most designs of the vision quest are seen as protective forms or spirit-beings, they would be carefully re-created. Non-artists often describe their dream creatures to a designated artist so that they could design their buildings as such using wood or stone.
One of the most famous American Architects is Frank Lloyd Wright. Wrights designs were based on his philosophy called organic architecture, which attempted to create harmony between humanity and the environment.
One vital step that has been taken to amend some of this colonial legacy has been the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
The Act commands that “human remains, funerary items, sacred items, and objects of cultural importance, referred to collectively in the statute as cultural items”, be restored to tribes if they can express lineal descent or cultural affiliation.
Many galleries in the U.S. have been actively working to repatriate objects and human remains. For instance, Penn Museum repatriated a wooden case drum, a fur robe, wooden veils, a headdress, a rattle, and a tube back to the Tlingít T’akdeintaan Clan of Hoonah, Alaska. The museum had originally acquired these objects in 1924.
Importance of North America’s Artists
Art, in its various forms, exists in every community, culture, and country. It has been created since time began, evidenced in cave paintings and rock art in North America.
Every artist plays a unique role in contributing to the overall health, development, and well-being of of their society including:
- Express universal emotion;
- Reveal the truth;
- Work to show margins and make change in societies;
- Share stories on traditions;
- Connect inspire people;
- Record and preserve our history;
- Give messages of hope;
- Ambassadors of the natural world;
- Create a sense of community.
Creating North America Inspired Masterpieces
Adrian Reynolds can draw inspiration from a given culture, item, or religious belief and explore your creative nature.
Adrian lived in Seattle, WA and is familiar with Native American history and stories of the Pacific Northwest; particularly Chief Si’ahl of the Duwamish and Suquamish Tribe of Indians, who was the lead signatory of the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855.
He can create an original piece of luxury canvas wall artwork designed for your home, shop, or workplace, he invites you to explore his colourful and exotic artworks.
You can commission for an absolutely original piece of art to suit your domestic or commercial space best from Ren Creative Works.
If you have enjoyed reading about the Influence of Cultural Identity on North Americas Art, I invite you discover the cornerstone article to this series: The Influence of Cultural Identity on the Creation of Art.