Dakota Sioux artist Mary Sully was the great-granddaughter of respected nineteenth-century portraitist Thomas Sully, who captured the personalities of America’s first generation of celebrities (including the figure of Andrew Jackson immortalized on the twenty-dollar bill). Born on the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota in 1896, she was largely self-taught. Steeped in the visual traditions of beadwork, quilling, and hide painting, she also engaged with the experiments in time, space, symbolism, and representation characteristic of early twentieth-century modernist art. And like her great-grandfather Sully was fascinated by celebrity: over two decades, she produced hundreds of colorful and dynamic abstract triptychs, a series of “personality prints” of American public figures like Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth, and Gertrude Stein.
Sully’s position on the margins of the art world meant that her work was exhibited only a handful of times during her life. In Becoming Mary Sully, Philip J. Deloria reclaims that work from obscurity, exploring her stunning portfolio through the lenses of modernism, industrial design, Dakota women’s aesthetics, mental health, ethnography and anthropology, primitivism, and the American Indian politics of the 1930s. Working in a complex territory oscillating between representation, symbolism, and abstraction, Sully evoked multiple and simultaneous perspectives of time and space. With an intimate yet sweeping style, Deloria recovers in Sully’s work a move toward an anti-colonial aesthetic that claimed a critical role for Indigenous women in American Indian futureswithin and distinct from American modernity and modernism.
|Publisher:||University of Washington Press|
|Product dimensions:||7.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Philip J. Deloria (Dakota descent) is professor of history at Harvard University and the author of Indians in Unexpected Places and Playing Indian. His most recent book, coauthored with Alexander I. Olson, is American Studies: A User’s Guide. He is a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, where he chairs the Repatriation Committee; a former president of the American Studies Association; and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Native to Modernism 3
Part 1 Becoming Mary Sully
Chapter 1 Genealogies: Sound from Everywhere 27
Chapter 2 Histories: To Wake Up and Live 59
Part 2 Reading Mary Sully
Chapter 3 Interpretation: Toward an American Indian Abstract 93
Chapter 4 Contextualization: The Impossible Subject 145
Part 3 Realizing Mary Sully
Chapter 5 Psychology and Culture: The Nature of the Margin 191
Chapter 6 Politics and the Edges: Reading Three Stages of Indian History 227
Conclusion: Luta and the Double Woman 261
What People are Saying About This
In an astonishing act of recovery, Becoming Mary Sully reorients the study of Native American aesthetics. Through prodigious research and creative analysis, Phil Deloria locates his great-aunt's life and work within the broader currents of American cultural history and in the process challenges the often unhelpful disciplinary boundaries that disconnect "American" and "American Indian" art. A wonderful addition.
Makes available a unique and fascinating body of modern art that, as interpreted by the author, expands our understanding not only of Native American but also of American modernism during the first half of the twentieth century.
"Makes available a unique and fascinating body of modern art that, as interpreted by the author, expands our understanding not only of Native American but also of American modernism during the first half of the twentieth century."Ruth Phillips, professor of art history, Carleton University
Mary Sully’s art stops you in your tracks. So do the interpretations offered by her great-nephew Phil Deloria. Deloria argues that Sully was a ‘native to modernism,’ an extraordinary early twentieth-century talent whose personality prints disrupt the categories of American Indian and modernist art genres. Once again, Deloria sets the bar for brilliant Indigenous scholarship that elevates our understandings of our sharedIndigenous and non-Indigenousworld.