THE SACRED LEGACY OF BEAUTY, HEART, AND SPIRIT
The primary purpose of this exhibition is to honor and celebrate our Native peoples and their stories, their history, and their culture as well as the beauty and power of Edward Curtis’ photography. Over one hundred years ago, American photographer Edward Sheriff Curtis set out on a monumental quest to make an unprecedented, comprehensive record of the North American Indian. During a thirty-year period he produced 40,000-50,000 photographs of Native people from over eighty different tribal groups. Curtis’ mission was to safeguard their ‘sacred legacy’ by preserving their way of life, their personal histories and their beliefs in photographs, film, sound, and text. This was a highly collaborative process and the Native people were active co-creators in preserving this record for future generations. It is estimated that 10,000 American Indians actively participated in this project. Today this work stands as a landmark in the history of photography, book publishing, ethnography, and the American West. These sets of rare books, The North American Indian, are now the most valuable sets of books published in the history of the United States.
Viewed in its entirety, Curtis’ work presents an historical record of enormous importance. Edward S. Curtis and his Native co-creators preserved for future generations a valuable archive of a people whose way of life and their history was rapidly being lost. It is also a record of a serious era in American history and provides us with a powerful opportunity to understand the American Indian experience. Perhaps the most important legacy of this work is the expression of an extraordinary and deeply felt empathy and understanding of the personal, emotional, and spiritual lives of the American Indian. The work’s core message is one of beauty, heart, and spirit. In all these respects, this collaborative body of work is unique and unparalleled.
This is a unique photographic exhibition created expressly for the United States Department of State. The principal purpose of this sixty-print exhibition is to celebrate our Native peoples and their history and culture, as well as, the beauty and power of Edward Curtis’ photography. The Exhibition illustrates the broad and extraordinary diversity among the North American tribes and pays homage to the famed photographer/ethnographer Edward S. Curtis. The Exhibition is also designed to attract and create a positive dialogue among widely diverse populations throughout the world. These goals have been achieved by creating an exhibition of Curtis’ photographs that can easily travel throughout a variety of venues. Each Exhibition comprises sixty museum-quality fine art photographic prints, didactic panels, ephemera reproductions, and a film by Anne Makepeace that focuses on Curtis’ work and its relationship to contemporary Native Americans. All didactic panels, ephemera reproductions and virtually all prints in the exhibitions have been created specifically for these exhibitions. Most prints are created using extremely rare processes originally employed by Curtis for his most prized (and expensive) prints. Because of the factors enumerated below, this Exhibition is considered a radical improvement upon any previous exhibitions of non-vintage Curtis photographs.
All work included in this Exhibition is drawn from the archive of the personal collection of Christopher Cardozo. This is the largest and most broad-ranging Curtis collection in the world. Mr. Cardozo is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on Edward Curtis and his photography. He has authored eight books and lectured internationally on Curtis. From his archive of over 4,000 vintage Curtis prints, Mr. Cardozo has selected sixty of Curtis’ most compelling and evocative images. Each image has been printed in a size and medium intended to most fully enhance the impact of object. The images are representative of the diverse cultural geographic regions in which Curtis photographed and illustrate Curtis’ artistry in portrait, landscape and still life photography.
The prints are extremely faithful to the look, feel, dimensions, etc. of Curtis’ original, vintage prints. Wherever possible Mr. Cardozo’s personal archive of original Curtis negatives were used as the source for creating the exhibition prints. Where the negatives were not available, the highest quality vintage prints from Cardozo’s collection were used as the source for generating the new prints. In many cases these vintage prints are unique. Mr. Cardozo’s company, Curtis Centennial Project, Inc., copyrights the prints in the exhibition and each venue is permitted to freely use the imagery for education and promotional purposes.
Mr. Cardozo has been actively involved in Curtis’ work for over four decades and has endeavored to create the most beautiful prints possible for this Exhibition. A wide variety of print media were explored and an unprecedented seven distinctly different fine art photographic print media are included in each Exhibition. One of the many goals of the Exhibition is to attract highly sophisticated individuals in each country. Therefore, it was critical to create exhibitions of unsurpassed beauty and technical
mastery. Toward that end, all prints were made by master printers Peter Bernardy, of Curtis Centennial Project Inc., and Peter de Lory, of Peter de Lory Photography. Mr. Bernardy has been a professional printer fifteen years and has worked with Mr. Cardozo for ten years. Under Mr. Cardozo’s direct supervision, Mr. Bernardy and Mr. de Lory went through a complex and time-consuming mastering process for each print.
Cardozo also drew upon longstanding relationships in the museum-level framing industry to create the final custom-designed framing presentation for all the photographs. Each frame will be a museum-quality hardwood moulding with archival matting and will be specifically selected to complement the size and tonality of the individual print. Archival matting will be used throughout.
Two exhibitions from Cardozo’s personal Curtis collection have been traveling widely in Europe over the past five years. Both have been extremely well received (the inaugural exhibition in Paris broke twenty year attendance records at the host museum and generated over 100 newspaper and magazine articles as well as television coverage.) The “Sacred Legacy” Exhibition created for The Department of State has
been exceptionally well received in over forty-five countries and has generated thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, radio, and television spots. Through the exhibitions and attendant publicity millions of people throughout the world have been touched by Curtis’ work. Cardozo has drawn on his forty years and tens of thousands of hours of experience with Curtis’ work to create these popular and critically acclaimed exhibitions.