The 2014 Melva J. Dwyer Award committee received 11 nominations; each publication presented such uniquely valuable contributions to Canadian art, design, architecture and visual culture studies that it made for a challenging evaluation process. Despite this, there was unified consensus that one title stood out as truly representing an “exceptional reference or research tool relating to Canadian art and architecture” and the jury unanimously chose to confer the 2014 Melva J. Dwyer Award to:
Native Art of the Northwest Coast: A History of Changing Ideas edited by Charlotte Townsend-Gault, Jennifer Kramer, and Ḳi-ḳe-in. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2013.
The committee was riveted by the integrity and authenticity of the thirty essays included in this anthology, the rigorous indexing, the awe-inspiring breadth and scope of the content and, most compellingly, how the overall thematic structure of the work represents a holistic Indigenous worldview. This is not a standard “reference” publication emanating from the European enlightenment tradition: Native Art of the Northwest Coast subtly questions modes of organization grounded in either chronological or subject-based ordering, by employing a conceptual structure rooted in Indigenous narrative practice.
A product of over ten years of research, Native Art of the Northwest Coast offers a comprehensive review of 250 years of historical literature. The thirty essays featured in this 1,000 page publication are expansive covering topics such as the evolution of the Northwest Coast art market, the deployment of Native art for Canadian nationalist purposes, the influence of First Nation’s culture on surrealist thinking, and the recent explosion of Indigenous voices in new media production.
An exhaustive index not only supports expected access and searchablity features, but is a work of art in its own right, as it provides the ethical framework for the entirety of all thirty essays. The predominance of indexed entries that offer conceptually expressive themes–such as Access, Agency, Collaboration, Culture, Dance, Objects, Ownership, Power, to name a few–might seem unexpectedly poetic for a reference tome, but are, in fact, critical for providing the Indigenous values that tangibly bind together the diversity of material presented in the essays.
Native Art of the Northwest Coast truly embodies a post-colonial voice, by taking the genre of “reference” and re-framing it through the lens of Indigenous “ways of knowing.” In this light, the theme of the 42nd ARLIS/NA conference “Art+Politics” seems a fitting tribute for this award winning title!
DANIEL PAYNE , MLIS, MA (Musicology), BEd
Former CANADIAN MEMBER-AT-LARGE
ARLIS/NA Executive Board
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