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Grant number like: FA-55552-10

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Thomas A. Gregor
Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN 37240-0001)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2010 – 6/30/2011

Mehinaku Art: Social Change and the Evolution of an Aesthetic Tradition

The proposed research seeks to understand the evolution of an aesthetic system among the Mehinaku, an indigenous people of the Upper Xingu River in Brazil. Until recently, Mehinaku art has appeared in conventionalized designs on ritual and utilitarian objects. Over the last 15 years, however, the village has become part of a crafts market, in which artists innovate in response to consumer interest. The result has been a florescence of styles which create new designs and combine old ones in novel ways. At the same time, a new culture of drawing has emerged, rooted in part in Western graphic conventions that make new aesthetic and social statements. The proposed research, based on field work in Brazil, will examine Mehinaku art in terms of its creators and their motives, the iconography of design, the native concept of "authenticity," the formal structure of new, emerging art, and the implications of aesthetics for self and society in a rapidly changing world.