Re: Environmental Symbolism

Kelley Hays-Gilpin (KAH2@A1.UCC.NAU.EDU)
Mon, 25 Apr 1994 10:26:00 -0700

For Monty Roper and anybody else interested in Environmental Symbolism

I just got back from the Soc. for American Archaeology meetings at Disneyland
(talk about a symbolic landscape!) and haven't caught up on my Anthro-l Digests,
so don't know if anyone has asked and answered, what is environmental symbolism,
exactly, and how is it related (if at all) to what's beging called "landscape
archaeology"? I think I can guess from the context, but hadn't heard the term.
I'd also be interested in references! Here's one for starters (tho' it may not
be what you have in mind):

Parezo, Nancy J., Kelley A. Hays, and Barbara Slivac
1987 "The Mind's Road: Southwestern Indian Women's Art." In _The Desert is No
Lady: Southwestern Landscape in Women's Writing and Art_, edited by Vera H.
Norwood and Janice J. Monk, pp. 146-173. Yale University Press, New Haven.

We were the rogues of this too-cleverly-titled volume, arguing that the way
landscape was portrayed (abstractly) in traditional SW Indian art had little to
do with gender. We did find that in contemporary art women (particularly
potters) continued to use more abstract, symbolic representations of landscape
features while men tend to adopted realist style derived from Western art.
Men also adopted the media of Western art (i.e. oil and watercolor painting)
more than women did, so this difference has more to do with the economics
(politics?) of acculturation than native gender categories. What might be of
interest in the way of environmental symbolism is our discussion of how
materials from the landscape (clay, sand, plants) are used in art, and how
certain landscape features (roads/paths, mountains, clouds) are depicted
graphically and conceived cosmologically.

--Kelley Hays-Gilpin
Navajo Nation Archaeology Dept. at Northern Arizona University