Heyo avid reader! Once again we are confronted with the problem of Indigenous representation - this time in the art museum world.
Fair warning: do not be deceived by recent attempts at inclusivity by contemporary art institutions. A recent study of “art-world racism” in New York from 1980–87 by artist Howardena Pindell seems to verify that white-identified galleries and museums have little motivation in enfranchising Native Americans and other people of color.¹ Based on her statistical overview of the demographics of mainstream art exhibitions, Pindell concludes that “Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American artists are . . . with a few, very few, exceptions -- systematically excluded.”²
P.E.S.T.S., an anonymous group of New York-based African, Asian, Latino, and Native American artists organized in 1986 to combat “art-world apartheid,” came to a similar conclusion. In 1987, the PESTS Newsletter published a roster of sixty-two top New York galleries whose stables were all or nearly all white. While the situation would appear to be somewhat better outside of New York, Native American and other artists of color remain underrepresented in museums and galleries across the United States.
Now, it would be very foolish of us here at the Sustainability Office --- to try and compensate years of art oppression with a single article. We won’t do that. Our specific goal is to provide a portal of Indigenous Artists whose works operate at the intersection of indigenous and environmental rights. We invite you to engage with the art by processing what the respective artists say inspires them. We hope you take some inspiration from their words and apply them to your own creativity.
Art plays a key role in understanding intersections of identities within our temporal and cultural context. The goal with this exhibit is to highlight the work of modern-day indigenous artists who are working at the intersection of indigenous and environmental rights. Indigenous art has a long and complex history in the the United States, and while there is certainly lots to unpack there, the goal with this virtual gallery is simply to provide inspiration, moments of reflection, and curiosity to your day by highlighting the amazing work of a few indigenous artists.
** It is important to remember that the artists featured are individuals with unique experiences, histories, and voices. These works do not speak to the experiences or views of all indigenous people. We encourage you to engage with this art as mindfully as you can, and we hope that it provides some fodder for critical thought and understanding. **
If you know of a(n) Indigenous artist(s) who you think should be on this list, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to provide your suggestions. Furthermore, if you want to discuss more about Native American representation in American art museums, we'd love to host a space for discussion. Reach out to us at email@example.com to provide your feedback.
And now, to avoid the over-compensated Buzzfeed list format, we instead provide you with a hypothetical day at The Dartmouth Sustainability Portal of Indigenous Artists.
12:30 P.M. | Let’s begin!
Your phone rings. You are not amused. This is not the best way to wake up. Your favorite way to wake up is to have a certain British music star whisper to you softly at one-thirty in the afternoon that if you want to get your COVID-19 vaccine in time you better let the staff at Leverone know where you live. This occurred to you in a dream.
You are about to start your skincare routine when in a jump-cut of actions you are suddenly thrust into the Dartmouth Sustainability Museum of Indigenous Art. You are worried about your skincare routine that no longer matters because in this scenario your skin is perfect. Congratulations.
A pleasant tour guide takes you by the hand and guides you through the halls of our museum. You want to exit but you remember that one of your friends overtly mentioned they were a “Susty” Intern and now you must stay because you are a good friend.
Like all casual art museum-goers, you have an urge to start at the Gift Shop. We do not judge you. It is quite good.
1:08 P.M. | The Gift Shop features merchandise brought by: Orendatribe.com
Orenda Tribe is made up of a community of hands working together to craft each unique piece and carry the stories of another time to you.
They are a small team of artists and makers around the world, including Indigenous artists from Dinétah, who love old things inspired by the energy of vintage textiles. The Orenda artists can feel the lives lived by a garment before it arrived in their hands, and they seek to continue this life cycle.
With each Orenda Tribe garment, they creatively approach the upcycling process to repurpose for the future.
CLOTHING WEBSITE: ORENDATRIBE.COM
1:30 P.M. | You have entered the: WILL WILSON GALLERY
Will Wilson’s work focuses on the transformation of Indigenous art practice through the incorporation of captivating technology software in new ideas, and in so doing, expands the possibilities of what contemporary art photography can be.
His photographic images often intersect Indigenous knowledge systems and practices with advancing equipment that create wonder and intrigue.
Wilson hopes that Native American photographs will represent an intervention with the contentious and competing visual languages that form today’s photographic canon. This critical Indigenous photographic exchange can generate new forms of authority and autonomy. These actions alone – rather than the old paradigm of assimilation – can form the basis for a re-imagined vision of Native people in art and imagery.
2:13 P.M. | LUNCHTIME
Feeling curiously refreshed, you enter the Portal’s dining hall. You realize you have a sack lunch in your complementary knapsack. You throw it away. It was peanut butter and jelly. That’s just the kind of person you are---whimsical.
Instead, you order our lunch special: Mexican street tacos. The cashier asks for ten dollars. You agree that this is an understandable request, however, you remind the cashier that a life devoted to the blind pursuit of money in exchange for providing basic sustenance is a tad absurd. The two of you are unable to reach an agreement. The staff will apologize about this to you later.
2:29 P.M. | You have entered the: KENNY GLASS EXHIBIT
Kenny Glass is a Cherokee textile artist originally from Kansas, Oklahoma. He started sewing six years ago, making stomp dance skirts at ceremonial grounds, and then ventured out from there. He enjoys the mix of traditional Cherokee designs and cultural aspects with new and modern ideas.
Glass specializes in textiles and beadwork and is a member of the Squirrel Ridge Ceremonial Grounds, where he is a representative on the clan council.
"Many have referred to me as a textile artist. The majority of my time is spent on clothing that is worn at the dance ground. I love to see people wearing my clothes and putting them to good use."
3:05 P.M. | THE KELI GONZALES DISPLAY
Keli Gonzales is an artist from Welling, Oklahoma. Drawing on her experiences as a Cherokee woman, Gonzales creates paintings and drawings portraying the Cherokee people in a way that is true to life.
Gonzales incorporates Cherokee syllabary, stories, animals and sports into her art. Her drawing “Anejodi” portrays stickball players vying for a stickball in the air.
Gonzales said she doesn’t like to be “overt” in her drawings and uses hints of Cherokee culture to leave it open for interpretation. “I like things that don’t look like real things, if that makes sense. It’s like an interpretation of a real thing instead of copying it. I like to interpret.”
Gonzales also explains: "Continue to fight. Fight for each other. Fight for what's right. Fight for fairness. Fight for your representation. Fight against ignorance. That's how you got to where you are. You fought. You fought through your worst days. You fought through your fears. And after you defeated each foe, you wiped the blood from your face, and asked, 'Who's next?'"
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: https://keladi.carrd.co
SOCIAL MEDIA: https://www.instagram.com/sideshow_kel/
3:40 P.M. | THE RYAN SINGER MEET-AND-GREET
Ryan Singer, a Diné (Navajo) artist, currently resides and works out of his studio in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. Heavily influenced by punk music and the underground art scene, his work is often considered to be a part of a “new wave” of young Native artists.
Ryan's distinctive use of vibrant colors, juxtapositions of traditional Native imagery with popular Western culture, and his satirical portrayals of modern Indian identity.
“I’m Ryan singer, I’m a Dine artist, Navajo artist from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’m originally from Tuba City, AZ. My clan is Bitter Water born in the Towering House clan. And my grandpa's clan is Manygoats and my dad’s dad’s clan is the Salt Clan. I’ve always been into art, always been into Sci-Fi, I’ve always been into music, and I've always blended everything together. Through that I tell my own stories about myself and my experiences. I like using all these influences and moving forward with my own style.
As I’ve gotten older I learned that I have a responsibility to a younger generation in teaching them how to express themselves. You have to challenge yourself. Every time you come up with something you have to try and make it better! Look around at all your peers, look at all the art that came before and all the artists that came before and compare with what is happening now to see where you fit in. See if you want to get better.
When I was a teenager, I was in to punk rock. I was an angry kid, i got into all kinds of stuff but music was therapeutic as well as art. I used art to get over whatever I needed to get over; heart break of feeling isolated. I still use it now., but now its a little more nostalgic. The ideas in Star Wars are like me growing up as a kid. Ideas and stories that I remember I’m making those into paintings. I know that art can heal somebody. You have all kinds of shit going on in your life and you just want to say something. You can use art to say, look this is how I feel.
I enjoy what I do, it's not something that is easily done. So I take pride in my work. If somebody buys a piece that can feel proud to hang it up in their house and I’ll feel good about that myself.”
Bringing his unique variety of acrylic paintings, silkscreen prints, and pen/ink drawings, Ryan has participated in art markets across the southwest including the Heard Museum Indian Market, the Briscoe Western Art Museum, and in the Santa Fe Indian Market.
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: https://www.facebook.com/RSingerArt/
4:21 P.M. | THE DAPHNE ODJIG HOUR
Daphne Odjig is a Canadian artist of Aboriginal ancestry. She was born September 11, 1919 and raised on the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island (Lake Huron), Ontario. Daphne Odjig is the daughter of Dominic Odjig and Joyce Peachey.
Her father and her grandfather, Chief Jonas Odjig, were Potawatomi, descended from the great chief Black Partridge. Her mother was an English war bride. The Odjig family was among the Potawatomi who migrated north and settled in Wikwemikong after the War of 1812.
The Potawatomi (Keepers of the Fire) were members with the Ojibwa and Odawa, of the Three Fires Confederacy of the Great Lakes.
“As an artist and as a person, I have been impressed since childhood with the process that takes us from the inner image to the external reality of an image. For me it has been an endless source of delight and wonderment that awareness, thoughts and recognition can come seemingly unbidden from an inner source that, in adulthood, I learned to call the unconscious. I know now, as an adult, that everyone of us is a fusion of the eternal, of ancestral wisdom or caution and a seer of the future – but some part of us always remains capable of responding to the here and now with originality. Every one of us is an inexhaustible source of wonderment, mystery and problem-solving potential. Somehow, each day, some part of all those throughout our bloodlines, who have walked before us, walk with us now. Yet there is always the aspect of unexpected newness.”
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: http://odjig.com
You have now been at our Portal for five hours. Impressive. Our manager provides you with a refund for the absurd food charge from earlier. Food is a human right.
Moving forward, generally speaking, you do not want to look at art for more than 4 hours because you will become desensitized to its particular effect. But fear not, you can always come back as we continuously update this list!
See Howardena Pindell, “Art World Racism: A Documentation,” New Art Examiner, vol. 16, no. 7 (Mar. 1989), pp. 32-36. In addition to a listing of New York galleries with mostly white stables (and the percentage of artists of color represented by each of these galleries), Pindell supplied a detailed statistical overview of exhibition records for artists of color at the following New York museums: Brooklyn Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Queens Museum, Snug Harbor Cultural Center (Staten Island) , and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Statistics were also given for selected group exhibitions and publications.
For more on PESTS, see Wilson, “Art,” p. 5.Island), and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Statistics were also given for selected group exhibitions and publications.
Judith Wilson then continues in “Art” (p. 4): “Thus black artists often find it harder to gain exposure in New York than in other parts of the country, because the economic stakes are generally higher in a town that serves as the hub of the international art market.”