The summer issue of American Indian magazine, published by the National Museum of the American Indian, features my article on painter Athena LaTocha. While she lives and works in New York, LaTocha was born and raised in Alaska. For her art practice, she does not use brushes but, instead, utilizes bricks and tire shreds to move the paint on the canvas.
This is my 20th article for the magazine. I hope you enjoy it!
Athena LaTocha (Summer 2016)
Many thanks to Rhys Griffiths and History Today for its article on “Native America’s Post-war History in Ten Works of Art.” I feel privileged that four of my suggestions were included in the list of ten.
Rhys contacted me in February about his upcoming feature which would be a “primer of 20th century Native American history, as seen through its cultural artefacts…[through] a chronological list of 10 works of art (paintings, records, books, films, etc.).” I submitted four artworks that I consider to be seminal works on multiple levels (subject matter, style, medium, public response, etc.). I guess he agreed with all of my suggestions! History Today is a monthly magazine based in London whose aim is “to bring serious history to a wide audience.”
I hope people in England and elsewhere learn more about Native expressive arts.
I am honored to have contributed an essay to The Oxford Handbook of American Indian History edited by Frederick E. Hoxie. I wrote the chapter (#23) on “Native American Expressive Arts,” and Oxford University Press released the handbook this month (April 2016). I appreciated the opportunity to provide an overview of Native American art history and to be included with such wonderful scholars.
Opening with the life and art of Dakota artist Oscar Howe, the chapter discusses the
“Indianness” of Native art and the frustrations experienced by Native artists over the
years surrounding their creative expressions. The chapter is arranged chronologically,
opening in the late nineteenth century and highlighting sample exhibitions, artworks, and
artists from the United States in order to illustrate broad conceptual issues. These
include Indian authenticity and identity, differences between fine art and “crafts,”
traditional versus contemporary art forms, the role of the arts in economic development,
and the impact of federal power on the arts. The chapter draws examples from painting,
sculpture, photography, video, and performance art. It concludes with a proposal for
understanding Native art inspired by the words of Santa Clara artist Rose Simpson.
I am presenting my research on metal gorgets given to Native North Americans and Australian Aboriginals at the “Entangled Antipodes: Negotiating Art and Empire in Australasia” symposium at Yale University. My research draws from my research trip to Australia in summer 2015 and interviews with contemporary indigenous artists in Australia and the United States.
Friday, February 12, 2016
“Presentations of Colonial Power: The Narrowing of Indigeneity between
Aboriginal King Plates and North American Gorgets”
In December 2015, I finished my six-month curatorial residency at the Cultural Resources Center of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). During that time I examined the artworks and records of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) Headquarters collection.
Created in 1935, the IACB “promotes the economic development of American Indians and Alaska Natives…through the expansion of the Indian arts and crafts market.” Numbering more than 6,300 artworks from its headquarters office, the collection is an amazing record of artistic movements, regional styles, and experimental projects produced by hundreds of Native artists from the 1930s through the 1990s.
The collection was transferred to the NMAI in 2000 from the U.S Department of the Interior, and it contains a wide range of items, including baskets, ceramics, beadwork, textiles, paintings, sculptures, and mixed media works. Since the IACB’s mission is economic development enterprises for American Indians and Alaska Natives, many pieces were produced for the tourist market.
Research can be isolating, and I wanted to share my findings with others, especially the Native communities who produced the artworks. The NMAI allowed me to write for the museum’s blog and highlighted artworks from the collection. It was a wonderful opportunity to inform others about the stories and artists behind the artworks.
During my residency, I wrote ten blog posts. The links are below.
IACB Headquarters Collection Blog Posts:
On Halloween, the Indian Country Today Media Network picked up my blog post about a Halloween-themed rug in the Indian Arts and Crafts Board Headquarters collection at the National Museum of the American Indian.
“Measuring smaller than 6 by 5 inches, the rug shows a trick-or-treating scene. Baskets in hand, children dressed as a ghost, witch, and pumpkin-man approach a house and hogan to ask for candy. Along with haystacks in front of the hogan, Begay wove a black cat and jack-o’-lantern perched on the fence in the foreground and framed the entire composition with a brown serrated border.”
Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/10/30/indian-arts-and-crafts-board-halloween-spooktacular-navajo-rug-162271
At the end of June 2015, I began my six-month curatorial residency at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). I have been assigned to the “Collections Research and Documentation” unit where I am going through the records of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) collection (which was transferred to the museum in 2000 from the U.S. Department of the Interior). Numbering more than 6,300 artworks from its headquarters office in D.C., the collection is an amazing record of artistic movements, regional styles, and experimental projects produced by hundreds of Native artists.
As part of my project, I am correcting any errors in the museum’s database records by comparing them with the original IACB accession files. My dissertation is on the IACB, and I am excited about working with the collection. I am sharing my findings through a blog that is part of the official NMAI blog. It will be a weekly feature within the “Objects in the Spotlight” section where I highlight one artwork. The blog is my way to educate others about the IACB and to showcase items within the collection that may never go on exhibit.
I hope you enjoy.