Philip Deloria will be presenting at the Indigenous Arts in Transition Seminar on Wednesday, September 14 at 6 pm. His talk is entitled “Toward an American Indian Abstract: The Art and Politics of Mary Sully.”


Philip Deloria is the Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Professor in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan, where he has appointments in the Departments of History and American Culture and the Programs in Environment and Native American Studies. Deloria’s research focuses on the social, cultural, and political histories of the relations between American Indians and the United States. His prizewinning book Playing Indian (1998), traced “Indian play” from the Boston Tea Party to the New Age movement, while his book Indians in Unexpected Places(2004), examined the ideologies surrounding Indian people in the early twentieth century and the ways Native Americans challenged them through sports, travel, automobility, and film and musical performance. Deloria is a former president of the American Studies Association, a past trustee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received his PhD in American Studies from Yale University.

Between the late 1920s and mid-1940s, Dakota Sioux artist Mary Sully created a unique portfolio of art, completely unknown to contemporary American or American Indian art history. Deeply engaged with modernist art and design, and with indigenous women’s traditions of the Northern Plains, Sully’s work is both aesthetically pleasing and conceptually challenging. In this talk, Deloria will offer close readings of several images in order to make the case that Sully’s art both belongs in, and alters, the canon of American and American Indian arts of the twentieth century—and that its engagement with “culture and personality” anthropology helped produce a politics visible in both form and content.