Featuring squash headpieces and bird-feather briefs, Karl Free’s designs for the ballet Pocahontas rely on the problematic trope of representing Native Americans through their connection to nature. Even at the time, a review of the ballet criticized the cartoonish effect of the costumes as being “in the manner of the old-fashioned cigar box Indian.” Later, the ballet’s composer Elliott Carter reflected: “I myself had misgivings about the ‘colonialist’ aspect of the subject . . . but hoped to make it a parable of cooperation.”
Gallery label from Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern, March 17 – June 15, 2019.