Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week 2: A Journey Into the Frontier

This week, my main focus was on researching Father Point's life and his interactions with various Native American tribes living within the American frontier. In order to aid in my research, my internship supervisor Professor Stephen Schloesser, sent me two books. The first, Sacred Encounters, provided me with dozens of examples of Point's drawings and paintings he completed during his time among the Native Americans. Sacred Encounters also gave me images of several articles of Indian culture, including pictures of Indian clothing and tools Point would have encountered during his travels.

However, it was the second book, Wilderness Kingdom, that proved to be the most informative and helpful text in my research. Detailing Point's life before his ventures into the American frontier during the mid-nineteenth century, the text's introduction quickly established Point as an educator and as a deeply religious Jesuit who nonetheless retained a particular skill for art that originated in his childhood. The editor's introduction stressed the fact that Point was dedicated to education throughout his life, opening the St. Charles College in 1838, and sought to convert and educate the American Indians in the ways of Catholicism. The beginning of his ventures was of particular interest to me, as the editor describes how representatives of the Flathead tribe traveled thousands of miles to petition the Jesuits to come to them rather than the other way around!

Wilderness Kingdom, for the most part, contained excerpts from Point's own journals as well as paintings and drawings he made during his travels. While reading the text, I took notes in order to construct a basic timeline of Point's travels so that later in the internship I may organize the drawings chronologically. Within the journal entries, Point mostly describes his time among various Indian tribes, from the Flathead to the Coeur d' Alenes to the Blackfeet, while often describing conversion experiences. The drawings and paintings meanwhile depicted a variety of subjects. Slowly, after analyzing dozens of Point's pieces within Wilderness Kingdom, I began to identify a several recurring themes of Point's paintings, most notably religious ceremonies within the tribe and landscapes of the contemporary United States. After reading these general research guides this last week, I will be diving head first in the coming week into a much more dense biography of Nicholas Point to gain more insight into his life and his artistic themes.

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