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Native to Modernism: The Art and Politics of Mary Sully


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Professor Philip J. Deloria
Harvard University

Between the late 1920s and the mid 1940s, Dakota Sioux artist Mary Sully created a unique portfolio of art, completely unknown to contemporary American or American Indian art history. Deeply engaged with modernist art and design, and with indigenous women’s expressive traditions of the northern Plains, Sully’s work is both aesthetically pleasing and conceptually challenging. In this talk, Professor Deloria will offer close readings of several images in order to make the case that Sully’s art belongs in, and alters, the canon of American and American Indian arts of the twentieth century—and that its engagement with “culture and personality” anthropology helped produce a politics visible in both form and content.

Philip J. Deloria is Professor of Native American and Indigenous History at Harvard University. His research focuses on the social, cultural, and political histories of the relations between American Indian people and the United States. His prizewinning 1998 book Playing Indian traced “Indian play” from the Boston Tea Party to the New Age movement, while his 2004 book Indians in Unexpected Places examined the ideologies surrounding Indian people in the early twentieth century and the ways Native people challenges them through sports, travel, automobility, and film and musical performance. Deloria is a former president of the American Studies Association, a trustee of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Reception to follow.

This event is made possible thanks to the Kathryn O. Greenburg Presidential Lecture fund.