What is Black and Red and Sepia?

Native Art Bookshelf

Native Photography and Art History Bookshelf in the shop at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe.

Notice the fairly uniform color scheme of these books. It is predominantly black, red, and sepia-toned. I took this photograph at the Museum Store at MoCNA, which has a great collection of books about Native American and First Nations art and culture. The photograph has been sitting in my phone for a couple months, but I still find the aesthetics of it symbolically important. These particular shelves are the photography and art history shelves. The bright green book in the upper right is an exception to the color limits. It is Our Land, Our Images, Our Selves, edited by by Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie and Veronica Passalaqua. The cover photograph is sepia-toned, though, so it does not break the preferred symbolic color scheme in that sense. The limited design aesthetics for books of this type is also apparent at book fairs at academic conferences, too. I noticed it at NAISA, but particularly at CAA, where art books can get fairly arty-looking.

Does this very limited palette of design colors for books about Native peoples reinforce stereotypes about Native peoples? Do these aesthetics imply Native peoples are only authentically located in a distant past? Is this design scheme necessary to sell the books?

Could I please have a hot-pink book about Native American art? A serious book.

Photo Essay – Books at the NAISA Conference in Sacramento

The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association conference is going on in Sacramento, CA today through Saturday, May 21st. The photo essay below consists of books that caught my eye while I walked around the tradeshow exhibits.

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A New Deal for Native Art by Jennifer McLerran

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Selling the Indian, edited by Carter Jones Meyer and Diana

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