Question #1: How does contemporary American Indian Art help reclaim and also define American Indian Culture? I think one of the ways art is reclaimed is when the Indian artist incorporates natural materials that represent parts of his culture and rituals that are precious to them. Some artists even incorporate themselves into the art installation, as James Luna did. He did a piece called “The Artifact Piece”, where he is lying in the middle of the installation, with comments incased within the display of himself. He does this to show how the world and the museums see Native Americans as objects that should be frozen in the past and treated as artifacts instead of the living members of present society and contemporary cultures they are. I think it’s a wonderful example of reclaiming his culture and defining it in an artistic way, that provokes the exhibitor to actually see that Natives aren’t artifacts, but living, breathing human beings who are a vital part of our nation. He also makes statements for his people that help define American Indian Culture. In the beginning his art work was geared toward the Native American people (which made them uncomfortable) by addressing certain issues, like identity. James Luna has a Master’s Degree in counseling and believes “the first step to recovery is speaking directly to issues”. “In Indian Country Today“, he is quoted as saying, “As native people we need to see cause and effect, not just effect. Then people will understand the repercussions of our identity issues, such as loss of our language”. www.indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com
Question #2: How does American Indian Art help transmit cultural knowledge? Cultural knowledge is expressed in many forms of art, from basket weaving to storytelling to rock art. The pictographs that were found in caves over centuries, were depicting knowledge they had of their culture and what was important for them during that time period. The baskets that were woven, had elements from rituals woven into them and other representations of their culture. Pottery, paintings and other form of artwork that is produced by any culture is transmitting knowledge about their culture and their interpretation of how they see and would like you to see their culture. An example of an abstract form of transmitting a representation of their culture is work done by Jason Lujan, who is an Apache. In some of his work he uses an Apache helicopter to represent his nation. He paints the helicopter onto a newspaper background that is in another language, usually Chinese, placing the artwork in an international context. To me this shows a way of transmitting cultural knowledge in a global manner. Another artist that is transmitting cultural knowledge is Sarah Sense. She is creating art by using traditional Chitimacha basket patterns from her ancestry. She actually got the ok from the chairman of the Louisiana Chitimacha Tribe, after she asked for permission to recreate their basket patterns. One thing she does, is she uses old Hollywood posters and cuts them into strips. The photo paper is a sort of fabric that she weaves intertwined with old family photos. She refers to this as “her persona of ‘The Cowgirl’ and ‘The Indian Princess’”. She is quoted as saying “my weaving practice today is a catalyst to meet other indigenous artists and learn about their traditional practices as I venture on a journey to weave a cultural landscape of the Western Hemisphere”. www.legendssantafe.com Question #3: What kind of messages can American Indian Art help produce? I think the most important message that can and should be produced is the ratification of stereotyping. And I think contemporary Native American artists are doing just that. One such artist is Fritz Scholder, a ¼ Luiseno, a California Mission tribe. He taught in Santa Fe at the Institute of American Indian Arts in the late 60’s, and...
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