Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract


Product Details

University of Washington Press
Publish Date
7.4 X 9.2 X 1.0 inches | 2.35 pounds

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About the Author

Philip J. Deloria (Dakota descent) is professor of history at Harvard University and the author of Indians in Unexpected Places and Playing Indian. His most recent book, coauthored with Alexander I. Olson, is American Studies: A User's Guide. He is a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, where he chairs the Repatriation Committee; a former president of the American Studies Association; and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


"The moment to savor [Mary Sully's] semi-abstract celebrity 'portraits' (Albert Einstein, ZaSu Pitts), which combine a modernist spirit and Native American aesthetics, has arrived."

-- "New York Times"

"A significant contribution to a growing body of literature recognizing the roles of women in creating an Indigenous futurity rooted in self-representation and self-determination. The cultural work of women like Mary Sully challenges narratives that place Indigenous people outside of, and in opposition to, the modern world."

-- "Momus"

"In his evaluation of Sully and her work, Deloria leaves no stone unturned. What results is a compelling model--grounded in comprehensive historical and cultural analyses--for evaluating the works of women artists disconnected from larger art movements. In the case of Mary Sully, our understanding of her art and life reveals a unique approach by a bicultural woman that rejects limited views on American Indian art in favor of one grounded in an imagined American Indian futurity that should most certainly lead us to question our understanding of American modern art as a whole."

-- "Woman's Art Journal"

"Sully's art survives as a testament to Indigenous culture in the face of Western resistance."

-- "UW Daily"

"Becoming Mary Sully introduces the stunning and original work of a heretofore unknown artist."

-- "Artblog"

"Phil Deloria's Becoming Mary Sully endows what may seem to be a modest group of documents with radical potential. Moving through biography, formal analysis, art criticism, ethnographic and psychological theory, and Oceti Sakowin history and values, he offers an extended argument for seeing the work of this self-taught artist as engaging modernity from a deeply Indigenous perspective."

-- "Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal"

"In Deloria's fascinating study of Sully's previously unknown work, a project both deeply personal and highly attentive to broader historical and artistic currents, he locates a new narrative of Indian futurity and survivance in the realm of modernist aesthetics."

-- "Western Historical Quarterly"