Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Hero, Hawk and Open Hand Traveling Exhibit about Mississippian Culture to Open Nov 20

The Lost City of Cahokia: Ancient Tribes of the Mississippi Brought to Life: "Hero, Hawk and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South,' opening November 20 at The Art Institute of Chicago, is one of the largest showings of artifacts, design, and architecture dating from the rise and decline of Mississippian civilizations in the Midwest and the South between 2000 B.C.E and 1600 C.E.

The objects on display include ceremonial pipes sculptured in animal and human forms, conch shells engraved with ritualistic scenes, copper repoussé plates of rulers in full regalia, masks of shell and wood, embellished ceramic vessels and figural forms, finely worked stone implements, mica figures, and jewelry. Many of the works come from private collections and have never before been viewed widely.

Hero, hawk, and open hand refer to three recurrent motifs in native mythology regarding life, death, and renewal. Pipe effigies and fertility figures depict heroes, or legendary figures--often ancestors or mythical sources of life--who were also supernatural protectors and models for human leaders. Figures such as the hawk were connected with forces in nature and were believed to be linked to humans; dreams and ritual offerings made by shamans, hunters, and rulers maintained the cycles of society. The open hand is a sign in the Native American constellation associated with the passage of the soul from the realm of the living to that of the dead. Such cosmological forces were invoked by rituals and by aligning ceremonial sites to the paths of the sun or moon and the movements of constellations."

The exhibit travels to the St. Louis Art Museum in February 2005.