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Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West celebrates work, legacy & photography of Edward Curtis

Photo of Native American Iron Bear in Scottsdale
A photograph titled “Iron Breast,” which was taken by Mr. Curtis, is on display through April 2023 in Scottsdale. (Photo courtesy of SMoW)

Through the Lens: A view of Native American culture in Scottsdale

Staff Reports | Digital Free Press

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is hosting a one-of-a-kind exhibition celebrating the life and works of Edward Curtis, “Light and Legacy: The Art and Techniques of Edward S. Curtis.”

The fine art photography exhibition is open through April 2023.

A self-portrait of Edward Curtis on display in Scottsdale. (Photo: Edward Curtis/Courtesy of SMoW)

At the close of the 19th century, many indigenous peoples in the United States continued to adhere to traditional ways of life despite the tremendous pressures of modernity.

Curtis, a visionary photographer, saw the importance of honoring these people on film. Over three decades, Curtis created thousands of images, audio recordings, and the earliest motion pictures of native peoples, all while making tremendous contributions to the art and science of photography, according to a press release.

Dr. Tricia Loscher, assistant director for Collections, Exhibitions and Research at Western Spirit, contends the exhibition is a rare, curated collection of Native American photography.

“Based upon years of collecting Curtis’s artwork, Tim Peterson, Scottsdale’s Museum of the West’s trustee and Western art collector, has used his discerning eye in helping to curate this exhibition,” she said in the release. “On display will be photogravures, original copper plates, orotones, platinum prints, silver bromides, silver gelatins, cyanotypes, glass plate negatives and recordings of native music.”

A photograph titled, “Canyon DeChelly,” which is on display in Scottsdale through April 2023.
(Photo courtesy of SMoW)

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

For Mr. Peterson, the exhibition is a life’s worth of a collection.

“The exhibition lays out in two parts. In the first, at least four portraits, one dwelling, and four to six cultural images from each of the first 20 volumes of ‘The North American Indian’ will be featured. Curtis was a master at using various photographic techniques and materials, and the second half of the exhibition honors his skill. Bottles of the minerals he used to develop his prints, as well as a camera of the kind he traveled with will be on display.”

A picturesque view of Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. (Photo courtesy of SMoW)

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