July 27, 2021
78 color illus., 15 b&w illus., 1 map
10.00 Inches (US)
7.00 Inches (US)
1.9 Pounds (US)
$39.95 USD, £33.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Painful Beauty

Tlingit Women, Beadwork, and the Art of Resilience

For over 150 years, Tlingit women artists have beaded colorful, intricately beautiful designs on moccasins, dolls, octopus bags, tunics, and other garments. Painful Beauty suggests that at a time when Indigenous cultural practices were actively being repressed, beading supported cultural continuity, demonstrating Tlingit women's resilience, strength, and power. Beadwork served many uses, from the ceremonial to the economic, as women created beaded pieces for community use and to sell to tourists. Like other Tlingit art, beadwork reflects rich artistic visions with deep connections to the environment, clan histories, and Tlingit worldviews. Contemporary Tlingit artists Alison Bremner, Chloe French, Shgen Doo Tan George, Lily Hudson Hope, Tanis S'eiltin, and Larry McNeil foreground the significance of historical beading practices in their diverse, boundary-pushing artworks.

Working with museum collection materials, photographs, archives, and interviews with artists and elders, Megan Smetzer reframes this often overlooked artform as a site of historical negotiations and contemporary inspirations. She shows how beading gave Tlingit women the freedom to innovate aesthetically, assert their clan crests and identities, support tribal sovereignty, and pass on cultural knowledge. Painful Beauty is the first dedicated study of Tlingit beadwork and contributes to the expanding literature addressing women's artistic expressions on the Northwest Coast.

About the Author

Megan A. Smetzer is lecturer of art history at Capilano University.


"[A] comprehensive resource on Tlingit history in the Northwest."—Real Change

"Smetzer meticulously documents how bead workers living in painful colonialized situations supported their communities. Smetzer aims to prioritize the idea that multivocal art...effectively challenges the continuing effect of historical trauma through creating beauty that restores balance."—Choice

"[A] superb and compelling study."—American Indian Culture & Research Journal


"Succinctly captures the double-edged sword of this subject: the beauty of beadwork by Tlingit women artists as well as the painful histories of settler colonialism in which it is entangled."—Emily L. Moore, author of Proud Raven, Panting Wolf: Carving Alaska's New Deal Totem Parks

"Megan Smetzer advances Northwest Coast scholarship in several ways: it is the first art book I've read which centers Indigenous perspectives ("Tlingit aesthetics," she writes); she deconstructs biases which privilege the pristine formline but overlook the brilliance of the textiles; and she researches and celebrates important Native American women artists who have been previously overlooked in the scholarship."—Ishmael Angaluuk Hope (Tlingit, Inupiaq)

9780295748948 : painful-beauty-smetzer
240 Pages
$39.95 USD

Other Titles from Native Art of the Pacific Northwest: A Bill Holm Center

Skidegate House Models

Robin K. Wright
Feb 2023 - University of Washington Press
$49.95 USD - Hardback

Unsettling Native Art Histories on the Northwest Coast

edited by Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, Aldona Jonaitis
Aug 2022 - University of Washington Press
$29.95 USD - Paperback / softback

Art of the Northwest Coast, second edition

Aldona Jonaitis
Jun 2021 - University of Washington Press
$99.00 USD - Hardback
$29.95 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles in ART / Native American

Not Native American Art

Janet Catherine Berlo, foreword by Joe Horse Capture
Jul 2023 - University of Washington Press
$39.95 USD - Hardback


Rebecca J. Dobkins, Tasia D. Riley
Nov 2022 - Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University
$50.00 USD - Hardback

The Art of Ceremony

Rebecca J. Dobkins
Nov 2022 - University of Washington Press
$99.00 USD - Hardback
$34.95 USD - Paperback / softback