Cultural Interaction in the Multi-Ethnic Society:
Seminar Feb. 2. - 4. 1994, Schloß Rauischholzhausen
Organized Amerika Haus Frankfurt, Main, Germany Director Dr. Helena Kane Finn
Introduction August 2016
Even though it is more than 20 years ago, that I researched ( without internet!!!), drafted and delivered this lecture at a seminar on Cultural Interaction, I decided to post it on my collection homepage, because I consider its content is still valid. I restrain from making corrections but added a few information on the artists and works ( death dates and collections). So the lecture is posted more or less as once written missing all the content I delivered in free speech. I still have to research the dates and references for quotes and the bibliography I used and post it later.
Lecturers and organizers : Left to right first person not identified.
Prof. Opal Moore, literature “Enraged Silences of Men, Women and Nations” reading
Dr. Clark Halker :Concert +“Cultural Traditions in Contemporary American Song Writing”
D. Peiper-Riegraf ,gallerist “Cultural Interaction in American Indian contemporary Art”
Dr. Gerhard Wiesinger Program Director America House Frankfurt
Prof.Kerry Driscoll“Dancing in two worlds: Native American Identity and Anglo Culture”
Dr. Helena Finn, Director America House Frankfurt and Vice Consul
Prof. Dr. Mark Helbling,“You do not stand in one place to watch a (Harlem) Renaissance.”
“Concord and Discord: Canonical Skirmisches and American National Identity.”
Prof. Dr. Jules Zanger, American Studies “Ethnic Food and Cultural Assimilation”
Cultural Interaction in the Multi-Ethnic Society:
Lecture : "Cultural Interaction in American Indian Contemporary Arts"
Dorothee Peiper-Riegraf, February 1994
Professor Richard Sennet recently said right after the N.Y. mayor election at a symposium in Frankfurt, Main, Germany about the Myth of multi-culturalism "I come from New York in deep depression...and later " The only way we can handle the challenges of multi-culturalism in New York these days is by totally ignoring each other and with absolute indifference for one another". Somebody in the audience responded she wished, people were indifferent instead of violent...... Two statements on the difficulties and clashes in multi-cultural societies stated in Frankfurt November 1993.
Native Americans are one of the many cultural, religious and ethnic minorities in the Americas, but distinct by being “the first Americans” and by a violent history of colonialism, genocide and suppression of self determination. It is the subject of my lecture to investigate layers of cultural interaction and communication in the second half of the 20th century between the dominant Euro-American/Western culture and the Native American cultures through the arts..It exemplifies on this specific subject the discourse on multi-culturalism
Especially as to the cultural and political reality of minorities within a dominant society, everything that happens in the arts is a reflection and a result of changing identities and cultural interaction. Art is a medium of cultural history recording from within the human condition and a medium of messages aimed for affirmation, interaction and dialogue . The study of Native art today " is par excellence the study of changing art - of emerging ethnicities, modifying identities, and commercial and colonial stimuli and repressive actions" Nelson Graburn
I think a close, analytic look at Native American art will verify all these components.
With regret I have to disregard in this lecture the achievements in contemporary American Indian dance, music and literature, but will focus on the visual contemporary modern art. And I will concentrate on recent developments with short glimpses into its history. I look at this as a European with a 12 year experience on the subject and try to give you the voice of Native Americans on it with the means of as many quotes as possible and with a diversity of art presented with slides . Whatever I say, please bear in mind what Rick Hill , former director of the recently opened Institute of American Indian Art Museum in Santa Fe stated:
"Part of this what you see, if you were to look at Indian art criticism, I think you could retitle it "In Pursuit of Excellent Paternalism." And ,meaning that, we are still waiting for that smart white person to define, who the hell we are. And that’s got to come to an end. We have to lay claim in the spirit of self determination to say "Here’s what art means to us." It may mean something different to you, and that’s o.k. too, but one thing that American history has taught us, we disagree on everything: on Indians, on land claims, on religion, on politics, on everything else, why isn’t it natural to assume, we’re going to disagree about art."
An important event for the American Indian art movement is the comprehensive exhibition "Shared visions" Native American Painters and Sculptures in the 20th century" curated by the Heard Museum in Phoenix and touring the USA since 1992. Let me start with excerpts from the exhibition catalog and an article on that exhibition in Southwest Art, March 1992 written by Margret Archuleta, curator of Fine Arts at the Heard Museum, Phoenix and Dr.Rennard Strickland, Dean and Professor of Law, Southern Illinois University:. This rather long, important excerpt puts a light on, historical background, Indian reality today and how the roll of American Indian contemporary art and it’s emergence in the 20th century is seen by Native Americans.
Rick Hill 1991, Proceedings. Shared Visions Conference May 8-11, 1991 Phoenix.
“In many ways the Native American Fine Art Movement is as diverse as the world as the world of the artists themselves. Modern Indians are people of varied and contrasting cultures. There are more than 500 separate tribes, bands and villages of Native Peoples totaling more than 1.500 000 citizens….The modern Indian is very much alive and well. The determined effort to destroy Indian culture and break Indian pride failed. And art – the Native American Fine Art Movement – was one reason for the failure of this cultural genocide
…The Native American Fine Art Movement has been influenced by many centuries of interaction between Native and colonial societies. Indian painting and sculpture cannot be viewed in isolation. Instead it must be considered in light of the impact of such varied institutions and individuals as frontier artists, pioneering ethnographers, traveling nobility, military parties, wars and treaty negotiations, Indian agents, missionary stations, boarding schools, white homesteaders, government policies, railroads, minders, scholars, critics, art patrons and collectors, tourists, world fairs, the movies, museums, art galleries and the GI Bill. In short, Indian painting and sculpture have been shaped by all that has shaped the Indian who paints and sculpts.” SWA March 1992 R. Strickland, M. Archuleta
The following slides show works from artists represented in this exhibition. I encourage you to look at these works as artistic masterpieces resulting from cultural interaction and communicating messages. The statements indicate that the artists balance in and between two contradicting worlds. The works of art integrate and mediate or confront these “two worlds” and at times clashing cultures.
Artworks in the touring exhibition “Shared Visions” 1992
Image 0 Bob Haozous, 1943, Apache/Navajo " Apache Pull Toy" 1988, painted steel.
Collection Hood Museum, Dartmouth
This piece in the show was chosen for the invitation card from the Smithsonian Institution for this groundbreaking exhibition. In this piece Haozous reverses the stereotypical Western Cowboy/Indian fantasy and myth into a paradox by depicting the cowboy with two revolvers and being covered with bullet holes. He ridicules him by exchanging the horse with a child’s pull toy that deprives him of any control.
Bob Hazous “Apache Pull Toy” 1988
"I’m a cultural person first – I’m Apache and American. I neither want to be defined or restricted by my tribal affiliation, nor by such a Euro-American concept as art history" - Bob Haozous Frankfurt 1992
Image 1 Allan Houser,Apache 1914- ( August 1994 ) father of Bob Haozous
"Herding Sheep" 1938, watercolor, Collection Denver Art Museum
It’s an early work of the artist, in the so called studio style, typical for the narrative genre promoted at that time by white patrons. The Foundation of the Indian School in Santa Fe and the Dorothy Dunn studio that Allan Houser attended, mark in the 1930s the beginning of federally institutionalized patronage and promotion of American Indian art.
Image 2 Pablita Velarde, Santa Clara, 1918, "The Betrothal" 1953 tempera on canvas boa
Image 3 Harry Fonseca, 1946 (died Dec.2006 ) (Maidu/Portugese, Hawaiian)
"When Coyote leaves the reservation" 1980, acryl on canvas
“I believe my Coyote paintings to be the most contemporary statements I have painted in regard to traditional beliefs and contemporary reality. " Harry Fonseca
Image 4 Larry Beck, Yup’ik, 1938 ( died March 1994 ) "Walrus Spirit" 1982 mixed media, "found objects" recycling them into a new meaning. (other piece than in the exhibition)
Image 5 Rick Bartow , Yurok , 1946 ( -April 2016 ) “Coyote Mask/Seven Crosses”1994, Pastel and graphite on paper 40” x 30” (add. Since 1998 Collection Museum of World Cultures Frankfurt/Main, Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt ) Other Piece than in the “Shared Vision” exhibition
Image 6 George Longfish (Seneca/Tuscarora) 1942, Professor of Native American Studies at the University of California
"Wondering where the Lions are, Bird of Paradise? " 1990 Acryl on canvas
This painting allows me to look at truth and to get back on track with our culture and history. This transitional piece deals with how we communicate with the land, the birds, the animals and the Great Spirit."
"We need to own our cultural information and be in control of our religious and survival information and our language" George Longfish
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Salish, 1940
Artist, curator, activist and outspoken advocate for Native American art and issues
Image 7 "Sunlit" 1991, oil, collage/mixed media on canvas
"Indian People still continue to make art, whether it is called traditional or contemporary. It enhances our lives. Uplifts our souls. It means we are not dying. We celebrate life through our art. We give thanks with it. And it sustains us as it has for thousands of years because art is part of our cultural identity." Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
Image 8 James Luna, Luiseno, 1950
"The creation and destruction of an Indian Reservation" 1990, video and
mixed media installation.
End of reference to the exhibition "Shared Visions" Native American painters and Sculptures in the 20th Century" 1992
The present time rests upon the shoulders of the past.As to contemporary Native artist, the past they are looking at and referring to is their collective, tribal culture with only a short time of transition. This is unprecedented in art history. and unique in respect of Modernism
I will continue with examining examples of historic and contemporary objects and art that tell stories of interaction in multiple directions and I’m beginning with two quotes from 1991 by artist and activist David Bradley , 1954 Chippewa. They are especially relevant for the theme of this seminar:
1. "American Indians constitute the smallest segment of minorities or "People of color" in the United States. In the multi-cultural feeding frenzy surrounding the theme of 1992, American Indians face the danger of being swallowed-up and neutralized by the huge "people of color" movement whose wide agenda threatens to deny our unique voice and identity with the same nullifying effect as the dominant white culture." David Bradley
2. "We artists are called upon to perform the "living-in-two-worlds" balancing act in the public arena more than most other Indians. We sometimes become public figures and spokespeople in the process. We have an opportunity to promote Indian truths and at the same time help dispel the myths and stereotypes that are projected upon us". David Bradley
Image 9 David Bradley, 1954 (Chippewa)
"Bridges and Boundaries - The American Indian art Ambassadors" 1989 Acrylic on canvas
36” x 48” Peiper-Riegraf Collection
This painting was commissioned in 1988 for the cover of my second catalog and exhibited in the opening exhibition of the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe August 1989. It symbolizes cultural interaction and transfer from the Southwest to Frankfurt, Germany with the artists as ambassadors and art as a medium of transmitting cultural messages.
The painting is charged with stories and commentary but let me just introduce the artists to you with what they predominantly create as artists. From left to right upper row:
David Johns., Navajo,Dinéh, painter; Charles Supplee, Hopi, Jeweler; Neil David Hopi, painter; Bob Haozous, Apache, sculptor; William Franklin, Navajo, painter; David Bradley, Chippewa, painter; Jean LaMarr, Paiute, Pit River, printmaker; Emmi Whitehorse, Navajo, painter; Jaune Quick-to-See Smith , Salish,, painter, printmaker;
Lower row from the left: Delbridge Honanie, Hopi, painter, wood sculptor; David Dawangyumptewa, Hopi, painter; Darren Vigil-Gray , Jicarilla/Kiowa Apache, painter; Linda Lomahaftewa, Hopi, painter, printmaker; Dorothee Peiper-Riegraf, German, gallerist, collector; Marie Romero, Towa, potter; Tchin, Blackfood/Narragansett, Jeweler; Maxine Toya, Towa, potter.
With the broken pottery shards David Bradley reminds us in this and in many of his paintings, that these contemporary pieces of art have a history and bear collective wisdom. Both is rooted in and tied to as far back as prehistoric tribal cultures. More than anything it’s tied to the land they had occupied where you still find these pottery shards today.
Image 10 pottery shards
prThese pottery shards found North of Winslow, AZ are probably from the Mimbres culture or the Anazazi. The complete ceremonial piece from about 750 a.D. might have looked like that
Image 11, Bowl with rabbit-man
Excavated may be by white archeologists, studied and recorded by scholars at the School for
American Indian Research, the figure identified and interpreted by Hopi consultants like Fred Kabotie, the piece is in the collection and exhibited in the Museum of New Mexico Santa Fe, NM
Image 12 Lucy Lewis, 1890 – 1992, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico
Ancient pieces from their ancestors ( Mogollon, Mibres Culture ) were initial for inspired potters like Lucy Lewis who revived the pottery making at Acoma Pueblo ( photo her Fine Line Pot ), as did Fanny Nampeyo for Hopi and Maria Martinez for the Northern Pueblos.
Images 13 Contemporary Acoma Pottery
The cultural legacy is perpetuated and alive with potters like Charmae Natseway, left “Rabbit Man with Basket” and Dorothy Torivio ”Seed Jar” both are from Acoma Pueblo
Image 14 David Johns, 1948 Navajo Dinéh
The artist on the land once occupied by these ancient cultures, now Navajo Land, recently separated from Hopi land with a fence. This is where David Johns grew up in the early 50s - Here he is telling stories and legends. The ground is covered with pottery shards. All of this nourishes his art – mainly abstract paintings and portraits of Navajo people.
Image 15 section from the huge narrative ceiling mural by David Johns in Scottsdale
In a gigantic undertaking David Johns paid homage to the strength and beauty of these ancient cultures, their sacred lands and their spiritual leaders. N.Scott Momaday, Kiowa, professor for American literature who was honored with the Pulitzer price in 1968 for his novel "House made of Dawn" spoke at the opening ceremony for this mural and since I haveto disregard native American literature, I want at least share his poetic, history grounded statement on Native American art
" From rock paintings that are thousands of years old to prehistoric pottery that rivals the best expression of the ancient Greeks to the ledger-book drawings of the nineteenth century to early twentieth century watercolors of the plains and pueblos to the work of such notable contemporary painters as Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Fritz Scholder , David Bradley and David Johns, there is an integrity and continuity in American Indian art, that is unique and indispensable. The principle that most deeply determines the character of American Indian art is, of course, the world-view upon which it is based. And I’m using the term "World-view" in a fundamental sense: I’m talking about a way of seeing. The world- view of the Navajo ( and of all Native American Peoples) is predicated upon an aesthetic that is ancient and profound. Beauty and harmony, wonder and delight are eminently apparent in the physical world, in the earth and sky, in all things animate and inanimate. All aspects of the apparent - design, proportion symmetry, perspective, shape, color - contribute to the realization of beauty, delight and well-being."
N.Scott Momaday "David Johns, on the way of Beauty" Foreword page VII.
David Johns verifies this with these two statements:
"Everything I am and do comes from a place of harmony. If my mind, body and spirit are in balance, then I can produce an image which reflects my truth...
It concerns me that the languages and ceremonies might be lost one day so I try to preserve these in my art."
Image 16 the land, the physical word
Image 17 David John "State of Serene II” 1994 - the abstraction of essences
The Navajo world-view expressed in the individual artistic vision and abstraction by David Johns. “In my experience Indian Art, in its highest expressions, is at once universal and unique. It is the essence of abstraction and the abstraction of essences.” N.Scott Momanday
This was the introduction predominantly through art works and verbal statements by native Americans. Now I will try to share mine with this introduction:
When I spontaneously agreed to give this lecture, it all seemed so simple: I would objectify my 12 year experience with the subject, reading some 1000 pages of academic writings, interviews, art critics, proceedings on seminars, the ground breaking books by scholars and experts, endless statements by American Indian artists and timeless gazing at masterpieces of American Indian Contemporary arts. All this trying to find a thread that leads through this very diverse phenomena that makes it both a hurdle and a most rewarding benefit to ponder the question and experience of what this art is all about. and what is the significance in art history
The complexity of this art movement is overwhelming. You have to consider two cultural systems and then the individual and his influence from and interaction between both. In addition good art in every culture incorporates everything that was, that is and it allows a glimpse into the future. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith added a tribal dimension to this:" When we talk we talk in the past, present and the future. When I paint, I do the same." Now as to contemporary American Indian art it manifests and expresses in a diversity of mediums
and individual styles the most complex visions contemporary art as such can offer and challenge us with. I’m not saying this in a preference for American Indian arts, but with a
broad background on mainstream art and a constant follow up on it. I at this point leave the statement as an allegation and hope, that the slides and the lecture may verify this for you.
Art as a medium of exploring cross-cultural messages and cross-cultural influences
I’m going to explore this complexity exemplified in one piece of art and thus giving a preference to what the visual arts allow us versus a pure theoretical discourse - to train and enhance our senses and perception for and within the questions of the theme of this seminar.
The artist is Jean LaMarr, and her often exhibited etching:
Image 18 "Vuarneted Indian Cowboy", 1983, 28” x 30”, etching/mixed media
Jean LaMarr , Paiute/Pit River , born 1945 in Susanville, CA, where she resides. She received her education as an artist among others at the UC Berkeley, extended teaching experiences at various Universities and the IAIA, numerous exhibitions to mention just two:
1983 Art and Culture of the American labor movement, traveling exhibition (Staatliche Kunsthalle Berlin...Oberhausen, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Kassel, Chicago)
1988-1990 "Committed to Print", The Museum of Modern Art, New York
This is Jean LaMarr’s statement on this piece:(American Indian Art Magazine I/ 86 p. 60 )
"This is a print called "Vuarneted Indian Cowboy". Vuarnets are the Sunglasses. In the reflections of the sunglasses is what he sees. He’s wearing western attire but is a very modern Indian, still aware of what is happening to our earth. I use metallic in my artwork. I use rubber stamps, foil stars, anything. ..One of the things I deal with in my work is stereotypes of Indian people and the vanished American. I try to show that we are still here, that we’ve survived, that we have something to communicate with the non-Indian world and we’d like to share it with you. I found that my aesthetics are indigenous, that the aesthetics I get are from my grandmother. She got here’s from her grandmother. All the shades of the earth and the flowers and the sky were influenced by our grandmothers."
Vocabulary of Interaction:
There is a "vocabulary of interaction" you often encounter and already did in previous statements, reflecting specific characteristics between the native American and the "White Man" with his dominant mainstream culture.
"Stereotypes" - our preconceived notions, opinions, pictures, myths, prejudices, Eurocentric history recording, that blur our reception for reality and distinction and thus remain a major obstacle for dialogue, understanding and interaction with the "other" in general. This applies to both sides but is fateful and crucial for the native American.
"survival"- including the ever present awareness that officially until the 30s it was the "determined effort to destroy Indian culture and break Indian pride" I continue with M. Archuleta and R. Strickland: Twentieth century Indian art is about survival - the survival of the spirit. In a way, this art was the counterbalance to the federal effort to destroy all that was Indian."
This issue of "survival" is so important and refers to the pre Columbian time and the "First Man" in America, which is not relevant in the interaction with any other minority. And today, the memory of that disconnected and lost history with the consequences for their present day situation as quoted at the beginning, forms and creates the collective Identity of the many different native American tribes and nations in the interaction with the dominant culture.
"communicate" and "share" The arts are not considered "art for arts’ sake. It is alive with purpose and vision and most artists are driven by the strong motivation, to at once bear witness and individually express the essence of their culture as well as the changing dynamics with the mainstream culture. They want to share and communicate this to the.world at large. It’s the important aspect inherent in this art: Integration and differentiation, building bridges and setting boundaries.
I want to add at this point as to changing dynamics in regard of the questions of this seminar what native American artist Harry Fonseca said at the America House in Frankfurt in 1992 " For years we thought it was our problem, that white people couldn’t understand what our art was all about. Today after all these years of talking we know it’s first of all their problem, because they can see the world only through their eyes. We don’t care anymore if they understand or don’t. We just make the art we feel is vital and essential for our cultures." Professor Gerhard Hofmann later that evening stated: "Whereas in former years the artists sought the dialogue, he now tends to withdraw into the isolation of his culture and communicate his messages from there."
A further analysis of the "Vuarneted Indian Cowboy" conveys much of the mentioned complexity: The mixed media can be seen as a symbolic reference to the century old dynamics in the arts through cross cultural borrowings and trade (such as European beads substituted porcupine quillwork) As to the use of colors as well as to her preference of the medium of printing (it allows her to share which she states as typical for Indians ) Jean LaMarr refers to her tribal tradition and on the other hand, the Western medium and style of this modern piece of art, influenced by pop art, is a reference to her western art education. Both together indicate and express the cross cultural overlapping in education that today with changing dominance is inherent in each piece of art created by a native American. In awareness of all these components, Jean LaMarr as a modern artist consciously fuses them into the process of art making and we can appreciate the result as a piece of art that in this case is sustained not by ethnicity, but by its own artistic merits. In her ironic and playful use of images and styles, Jean breaks the cliché of the romanticized Indian as Gerhard Hoffmann states: "In the work of contemporary Indian artists stereotyped situations can become ironically broken archetypes for today’s world. Through a rich inventory of connotative images comes an articulation of the postmodern artistic credo of potentiality".
Let me take it from there and follow Lucy Lippard, art critique and activist: "Form, Technique and quality are taken for granted, I’m much more interested in content" 1990 "Issues in Contemporary American Indian Art" Symposium in Washington D.C
Issue orientated art:
Beyond artistic merits, the piece conveys many layered messages: First there are the obvious polarities between the historical but now stereotypical Indian image on the cowboy’s shirt, whereas he embodies the modern Indian you see today on his pick-up truck and wearing sun glasses. They reflect images of Indian reality living in a world with contradicting influences: his tradition and value system tied to the land his community, his world-view symbolized in the eagle. His life mostly situated within contemporary Western civilization symbolized in the bombers. With our eyes, we see an eagle, a bird, an animal. Listening to the stories and legends; researching and gathering the references about the eagle in native American mythologies, dances, ceremonies and art, it dawns on you, that the eagle in the eye of this cowboy ultimately reflects the essence of native American nature connected religion and spirituality. The eagle flies in circular movement, the bomber in a linear ...this marks all the difference as to the perception and understanding of time and space and thus until today the fundamental difference in the understanding of man’s relationship to the land and nature at large.
The loss of that unity of man and his world is the initial sparkle of Western civilization and first reflected by the Greek philosophers. I will have a look at this later.
The analyses of a piece of contemporary Native art has to take into account:
- the inherent cultural collective such as myth, legends, history, traditions, aesthetic
- inter- and cross-cultural influences from education to adaptation of art styles
and subversive appropriation of strategies
- regionalism and mainstream art scene
- the individual artist and his/her biography, unique vision and expression of all these influences
Institutions and institutionalized cultural interaction.
The "Vuarneted Indian Cowboy" has its own history and Jean LaMarr’s career allows the exemplified introduction of outstanding institutions and "institutionalized" interaction in the arts.
This entire interaction in the art scene reflects to a certain extent the situation within the "fourth world" theory written by Nelson Graburn
(indigenous people who live neither isolated from the dominant culture nor are in control of their collective lives) This is further discussed by Vine Deloria. The theory applies to the situation in the arts since the art is created by one group - the Indian artists - and consumed and seriously collected, promoted and rejected, curated and exhibited, critically acclaimed and crucially ignored ...mostly by white people. All this with notable exceptions where native Americans are in charge and control.
To just criticize this ambivalent situation is too simple. As mentioned before it was first of all the interest by traders, tourists, collectors and scholars that revived the reproduction of traditional crafts and initiated innovative processes. This revival became both an expression and vehicle for cultural and economic survival.
The criticism further disregards the fact, that the emerging innovative avant-garde artists experienced resistance within and had mostly no support from their tribes or communities. These conflicting situations began with potters who started to sign their pieces the end of the last century, it continued with someone like Fred Kabotie who was the first Hopi artist to create paintings to sell. It became a controversy in all directions when Indian artists claimed autonomy and authority - this is probably in most parts a situation of inner exile - shared with the artists of early modernism in Europe.
The revival of the crafts, the innovative processes and the emergence of the fine art movement is, despite of criticism involved, the success story of dedicated, charismatic and visionary individuals on both sides. Many of the some 160 institutions established today, were founded and initiated by such people or groups. The art created in these last 100 years by inspired and daring artists has brought forth the best of art and is a historical and national treasure. It may sound naive: but in my eyes it is also a testimony of positive interaction. But now, within the discourse of multi - culturalism, much remains to be done in the direction from patronage to parity.
Institutions for education and representation:
The Institute of American Indian Arts, IAIA in Santa Fe
Founded in 1962 the IAIA was formed within the context of the civil rights movement and the social idealism of the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies. It is (quote from brochure) "the only educational institution in the US devoted solely to the study and practice of the artistic and cultural traditions of all Native American Peoples."
Fritz Scholder, Luiseno and 1/4 German was one of the first teachers at the IAIA
Image 19 Fritz Scholder " American Portrait with Flag " 1979 Oil on Canvas 102x99cm
Image 20 Scholder "Indian with Bear Can " 1969, oil , 61 x 61 cm
Collection Ralph Lauren
Image 21 "Self Portrait" 1975 by Scholder’s student T.C. Cannon
This marked the opening of the now extended public and academic discourse on what is "Native American art" with the undertone of: what is a native American artist allowed to do !!! But already in 1972 the exhibition "Two American painters : Fritz Scholder and TC Cannon" opened at the Smithsonian in Washington and toured Europe.
Reflecting an outburst of a new self- awareness and demanding self-determination, politics and art came at once. The first more located to the Midwest and constituted in organizations like AIM (American Indian Movement) the new art movement rooted in the beginnings of the
century and institutionalized in the thirties became and is more centralized in the Southwest.
As a symbolic image of plurality and controversy within native American Peoples, I want to remind that during a demonstration of AIM marching through Gallup, the mostly Navajo and Pueblo Indians turned their backs to the native American and white demonstrators - one of the most insulting gestures you can receive as a sign of disapproval by a native American. The attitudes of both groups are deeply rooted in a different cultural and socio/political framework Whereas the one group draws its sense of identity from unique culture issues and still somewhat intact communities, the other forms its identity more from the experience of loss and discrimination .Within some artist’s career you can see expressed the changing from one to the other: from cultural issues to political, from dialogue to confrontation.
I later had to learn from Hopi artist friends, "If you write about us in terms of politics, you loose us as friends." Whereas Jimmy Durham, Cherokee (with problems as to verify this) former AIM activist, today acclaimed artist within the mainstream, rejects the notion that native American art can be separated from political issues.
.....Till today you will find this fundamental difference represented in so called political artists and artists like David Johns who work with the motivation and obligation to convey and share the beauty of their culture. David Johns told me about the pain and sense of loss, that caused the deepest depression, while he was working on his mural. "The only way I was able to continue was that I dedicated this work to honor my creator and my people."
Image 22 IAIA graduate Dan Namingha with his monumental work
"Pueblo Eagle Dancer" (" Ceremonial Hawk Kachina") (photo D.Peiper-Riegraf)
also began to recognize what was needed to save the Indian culture from extinction. It was a very powerful period." Dan Namingha
Image 23 "Rain Chant" 1987 Dan Namingha
“Talking about art: My reality is Hopi. Talking about Hopi – I’m an artist .” Dan Namigha
Image 24 IAIA graduate Maxine Toya, 1948 Towa, Jemez Pueblo "In Council" 1988
Maxine Toya, her mother Marie Romero and her sister Laura Gachupin revived the Jemez
Pueblo pottery tradition with exploring the lost traditional methods and innovation in individual expressions.
Image 25 IAIA graduate Delbridge Honanie, 1946 , Hopi Cottonwood Sculptures left to right “Spiritual Woman”, the Prayers, Hopi Maiden" 1980s
Image 27 IAIA teacher Allan Houser, Apache portraying the dignity of man
Allan Houser’s son Bob Haozous conveying the essence of social and political issues
Haozous “Cowboy “ 1992, 29 Quick-to-See Smith “The Vanishing White Man”1992
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, served on the board of trustees of the IAIA
Image 30 Smith "Trade" Gifts for Trading Land with White People”, 1992
Image 31"Mission Gifts” Edgar Heap of Birds,1954 Cheyenne, Arapaho
Posted on a Bus in San José, California
"Native Americans often react to adversity, whether historic or personal, with beauty or humor" and " Another significant similarity (in the work of these women) is the use of beauty throughout our work. There is a need to beautify life - rather than dwell on difficulties"
Humor is traditionally a sophisticated educational tool used consciously in traditional societies.
I experienced the profound change in Smith’s work from one series of work to the other. Subtle humor gave way to expressing directly deep concern and anger in her paintings starting with her Chief Seattle Series in 1990.
Image 32 Smith "Ceci nêst pas une peace pipe" 1993 wry humor - referring to Magritte who puzzled the art world by painting a pipe and writing paradoxly "Ceci nêst pas une pipe" .
Image 33 David Bradley, 1954 “Indian Princess”, image 34 “American Indian Gothic” David Bradley student and instructor at IAIA a sophisticated ironic-humorous painting referring to intercultural processes
Let me conclude this set of slides introducing the IAIA and the concepts of beauty, humor and politics in the arts with a print by Jean LaMarr
Image 35 "Some Kind of Buckaroo "Jean LaMarr IAIA instructor
The Indian as a cowboy, the image which Western advertisement has promoted to the ultimate symbol of freedom. In this image he is fenced in behind barb wire and behind a screen looking like a TV frame as if he was not real – it’s the shaken ground of reality versus fiction, cliché versus truth. Consequently his land he’s standing on is covered with the dead and false beauty of artificial flowers. There is no sun in the sky . The light derives from fire tracks of two star fighters
Institutions : The Heard Museum, Phoenix; The Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe; The American Indian Community House, NY
The "Vuarneted Indian Cowboy" is part of the permanent collection of fine arts at the Heard Museum. This Museum in Phoenix, founded in 1926, is today a major support of what it calls "The Native American Fine Art Movement" as a clear distinction to the ever present assumption native American art is confined to crafts and folk art. The Heard Museum’s Biennal Native American Fine Arts Invitational" is an outstanding showcase for the dynamics in this movement. The Vuarneted Cowboy was exhibited in the second Biennial in 1986. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith was one of the guest jurors.
She writes in her guest juror’s statement: "The overlapping from the old to the new gives sustenance to the new and the culture is carried forward. We recognize that art in a living culture must be dynamic. So too it must be for Indian cultures. A culture that is producing art - and blending new forms with old traditions, is still flowering. No matter how the art is viewed by outsiders, it is seen as a sign of vitality and as a celebration of life". Smith
From the very beginning and still in 1986 Native American artists had to fight for the acceptance of modernist styles. Till today, it is not accepted within the Native communities.
In 1992 it says in the introduction to the 5th Biennial "They (the artists) are working in diverse and up to the minute media dealing with contemporary topics and issues. They reflect the artistic and social concerns that face Native artists today, regardless of their tribal background or whether they come from urban or rural environment. " Margret Archuleta.
The sixth Biennial invited six artists - three participated with installations.
The Heard Museum’s archive, run by archivist Mario Klimiades has files on hundreds of artists and artisans
A new wing is planned to house the contemporary collection.
Parallel to this, the Heard Museum promotes with numerous events like "Indian Fair and Market"the diversity and the best in traditional and contemporary arts and crafts. Also as an ongoing commitment with it’s excellent Museums Shop.once run by a driving force behind Indian art, Lovena Ohl The Heard must stand here for a multitude of some 160 institutions in the USA.
But the largest showcase in any respect for native American art is "Indian Market" in Santa Fe that draws some 1000 artists and artisans and 100 000 visitors into town the third weekend in August. Indian Market organized by SWAIA sums up the rich history of interaction between
American Indian tribes and individuals, and the catalytic effect on the arts by white scholars, patrons and institutions. )
I want to mention two institutions , where I finally recognized the many qualities of the "Vuarneted Cowboy" - The American Indian Community House in New York situated on Broadway providing with ongoing changing exhibitions for contemporary Native artists a showcase in the midst of the mainstream art world. And the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe. founded in 1937, is New Mexico’s oldest non-profit, independent museum. The Wheelwright offers unique exhibitions of contemporary and historic Native American art.
As culturally beneficial and promotional all Indian related institutions are, it remains a dispute though, whether these special institutions in the case of fine art ultimately free mainstream institutions from their responsibility to exhibit and recognize the works of modern, avant-garde native American artists.
I want to quote again Rick Hill, because he touches something in his statement about institutions that I have so often encountered with Indians but also painfully expressed during an even at the Pen Club in New York with Toni Morrison.
And it’s there like an open wound - our anthropological concept of the "primitive".
"We have to remember, the Heard Museum’s original name was the Heard Museum of Primitive Art and that as primitive people, we were expected to show here and we couldn’t show at the Museum of Art. The same thing at the Smithsonian. We were shown at the Museum of Natural History, right next to the dinosaurs, the ants, the cave men, not in the National Gallery of Art. And until that time that somehow we can magically transform the curators of the Caucasian persuasion that Indians are legitimate people that make legitimate art, I think we have to specialize and create the institutions that then set the standard for the thing to be measured.
So I see the specific institute, meaning a museum that focuses on Indian art as an essential part of the transformation of this country towards some kind of state of parity, where then the work is recognized." Rick Hill Proceedings p. 62
And Margrete Archuleta addressing the necessity of specialized institutions like the Heard Museum and the planned Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.; and the IAIA in Santa Fe also addressing the fear of ghettoizing but then stating: "These artists need do be recognized at all levels, at all institutions, whether they be an institution geared towards their cultural background or a mainstream institution that should recognize them for their excellence as artists". Margret Archuleta "Proceedings Shared Visions Conference 1991 p. 63
With this background of specialized institutions available, the mainstream art scene has a rich source to go by its own standards of quality and recognize those artists of excellence and merit. Within the challenges of postmodern societies, these institutions cannot close themselves off from new responsibilities and more so: cultural and art historic opportunities.
Mainstream art scene dealing with multi-culturalism:
Real dialogue and serious commitments or "tokenism"
Following the postmodern crisis of Western society and culture, the 70s and 80s fully revealed both the breakdown of Modernism and the end of academic avant-garde art movements. This was the opening door for pluralism and diversity in the art world. The issue was and is discussed everywhere - with little break troughs here and there. The "Portikus" in Frankfurt is serious about it, but let me give you one example, that exemplifies what is common reality. (It would go too far, but the issue might be worth another seminar: Remarkable contribution for these discussions came from Germany - as a response to the previously dominant American art movements. An influx of exhibitions featuring German artists at MoMA and the Guggenheim, deeply affected the New York art scene and not so obvious also multi cultural discourses. To mention just one article from the New York Times requesting in conjunction with the Anselm Kiefer exhibition at the MoMA ,to finally start dealing with the painful legacy of violence and discrimination through the recognition and examination of art by black-American artists. This it seems, is easier to achieve in literature! )
Let me give you a glimpse into two major and representative art shows dealing with multi-culturalism and thus with the questions of exclusion, inclusion and integration looking at native American artists involved:
The two groundbreaking and certainly controversially discussed shows: "Les Magiciens de la Terre" in Paris in 1988, and The "Decade Show" frames of Identity in the 80s" a show mounted 1990 in New York as a survey of the best in contemporary art by minorities or parallel cultures. ( The show was mounted simultaneously with different exhibitions in the New Museum of Modern Art , the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem - all in NY City.)
Jimmie Durham, Cherokee, former AIM activist, artist and writer wrote the article on Native Americans in the shows extended catalogue. Quote from there: "The art world has a small capacity for tokenism but still little sense of art as investigation."
My question, because I reject all "tokenism" in the discourse of multi-culturalism.:
“Did ironically his criticism come true for him ? with the fact that he was the first and only native American being represented at the recent documenta in Kassel and courted there by curator Jan Hoet among many American mainstream artists as "the only real American in the show" (Now that puts a light on a specific European perspective that just as much blurs the potential of a positive cultural interaction as do other stereotypes .)
I have the same question with Durhams’s representation at the "Whitney Biennial" show in 1993, as well as Jimmie Durham being the featured native American artist in the German art magazine KUNSTFORUM INTERNATIONAL focused on intercultural dialogue.
Second quote from there : " The Magicians of the Earth" show kind of closed the 1980s with a celebration of egalitarian pluralism that places white man squarely on top of a "horizontal "heap. (I ...was originally asked to submit a project for approval for the show, but was turned down in favor of a Navajo sand painter - who could more easily be enclosed and admired from a distance. " Jimmie Durham
Image 36 Jimmy Durham "The Cathedral" 1989, Collection MoMA
Image 37 Joe Ben Junior"Four Houses of the Sun" Sand painting, 80s
Jimmie Durham and Joe Ben Jr. represent the extreme polarities in the art by American Indian artists reflecting profound differences and diversity in Indian reality.
Jimmie Durham rarely addresses tribal cultural issues, because his identity is predominantly shaped by the negative minority issues of cultural deprivation and discrimination. (I should say at this point, that exhibitions in institutions serving the Native American had to be cancelled, because Durham could not provide the required proof of being Indian) Joe Ben Jr.’s identity is firmly and deeply rooted in Navajo tribal life and traditional values. Durham and Joe Ben in their very own way are both eloquent representatives for their causes. The one with a sharp analytic intellect and conceptual art acting subversively in the mainstream art scene. The other soft spoken and with sand paintings from tribal images and Navajo mythologies offering and sharing the tradition and beauty of his culture.
Jimmie Durham does not give the Navajo sand painter a name – only “the Navajo “and thus no identity beyond the collective. To put it mildly, this is an insult. He sees the Navajo and his art not individualizes but both only as part of a collective. This is significant and a tendency within mainstream culture to not individualize when it comes to Native Americans. And it is foremost within the realm of all arts to break this tendency and as to broader recognition it happens more likely in literature than in the visual arts. With a few exceptions it is for that reason, that Edgar Heap of Birds, Cheyenne, Professor at the University of Oklahoma and acclaimed and very successful artists, declines to participate in group exhibitions for Indian artists. He succeeded most convincingly.
Reasons for EXCLUSION:
Paternalism and appropriation of images and symbols
Repressive actions in form of rejection and exclusion are often not recognized as such but happen unreflected within the mechanisms of ethnocentric prejudice, ignorance and indifference.
Inclusion and inclusiveness is a long process of education and extension on both sides that can brake the hierarchy, dominance and repression. The difference in such a situation between the native American artists and white collectors, curators and art critiques usually is, that the native American understands the insights of two systems - the other only one - exclusively his own.
Example MoMA "A wider Vision"; example Jean LaMarr discussing exhibitions like the Anselm Kiefer retrospective and "Edition Schellmann" at MOMA "We know how we have to make art and how it has to look like so we get your approval and the recognition of mainstream. But we cannot just do what we want - we are obliged to our cultures."
With Edgar Heap of Birds and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith I can give you another ongoing controversy and reason for the exclusion of native American artists. The reasons are rooted in Western art history and white paternalism ( or” liberal good doers “- Vine Deloria)
Let me first give you the example with Edgar Heap of Birds,Professor at the University of Oklahoma and acclaimed and very successful artist declines to participate in group exhibitions for Indian artists. He succeeded most convincingly.
To put it very simple: Edgar Heap of Birds uses language as a visual form to conveying particular issues of Native reality, supression and claimed sovereignty. Already in 1982 he was given the famous billboard on Times Square in NY for his art and stating messages.
Image 39 Edgar Heap of Birds, 1954, Cheyenne "Telling many Magpies" 1989
Image 40 Guggenheim exhibition”American Inventions” 1993 Lothar Baumgarten
When in 1993 German conceptual artist Lothar Baumgarten was honored with an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, he chose to inscribe the names of tribes and address, the Native issue of the taken land. He did the same at the Art Gallery in Ontario. Both times Baumgarten did not realize, that the time for "Paternalism" must end, when somebody wants to speak for himself and more eloquently can do it his own way.
"Baumgarten’s evocation of these names transforms the space into a mausoleum full of nostalgia and regret, in which the silence of those named is deafening." Robert Houle, Canadian Native artist in “Sovereignty over Subjectivity”.
In a way the same mechanisms of exclusions were at work in Frankfurt right now in the exhibition from the Kunstverein "Sehen/Lesen, die Sprache der Kunst " 1992 with two works by mainstream artists addressing Native American political issues - but you don’t see what there should be in an art exhibition, the best Native artists using language in their work. There are three huge mediocre works by Warhol and Basquiat but not an outstanding work such as:
Image 41 Jaune Quick-to-See Smith "INDIAN INDIO INDIGENOUS" 1992
Collage, mixed media, 60 x 100 “ Collection Peiper-Riegraf
The artists credentials are absolutely comparable to mainstream artists included in the exhibition “Sehen/Lesen at the Kunstverein Frankfurt .
Almost a year before the opening of the exhibition, I informed the curator that I have Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s famous work "INDIAN INDIO INDIGENOUS" available for theme exhibition on language in the art, the same with a Edgar Heap of Birds drawing “Relocate – Destroy” which was included and shown 1987 at documenta 8. I did not even receive an answer. I can give endless examples, where people are interested and willing to do something for "Them" and the "other " for inclusion and diversity always within the assumption of their dominance willing to prove their “good will”. But when it comes to the legitimate demand of participation and inclusion, it’s that one step too far .In the art world it is a mixture of paternalism, tokenism and exclusiveness within the linear concept of Euro-American art history and the undefined notion of "quality" that forms a wall resisting openness as a preliminary step to parity.
Cross cultural appropriation, borrowing and "Primitivism"
The major art movements of European modernism cannot be understood without it’s appropriation and inspiration from tribal collective ritual objects/masks with their intrinsic spirituality. The surrealists took the imagery and mythology seeking excess to the sub consciousness of man and his collective consciousness. Max Ernst, André Breton and Masson visited and consulted the Hopi Pueblo Indians in Arizona – namely with Fred Kabotie., who’s son Michael Kabotie recalls such encounters with European artists who found exile in the US. Klee and others looked for our lost unity with nature in primal societies.
Left Image 42 Kwakiutl Mask Museum of Man Berlin, acquired 1887
Right Image 43 Picasso " Girl before a Mirror" 194(1932)
Image 44 Mike Kabotie, Hopi "Thinking among the Mesa" 1985 Collection Peiper-Riegraf
When I asked him about some similarity with Picasso in this work Mike Kabotie stated
" Oh yea, we taught him everything we knew"
The first modern American art movement “The American abstract expressionism” emerging independently from any European art movement, was influenced by the 1941 MOMA. Exhibition “Indian Art of the US”..( imagine!!! Eleonor Roosevelt wrote the foreword for the catalog). :Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings come from a direct reference to the controlled dripping of colored sand in Navajo ceremonial Sand paintings demonstrated in this MoMA’s exhibition
It was evident in the slide presentation so far, that contemporary native American artists in return refer to Kandinsky, Klee, Miro and European modernism and abstraction, to Matisse and French and German Expressionism , to Picasso and Cubism, Rothko and Color field painting, DeKooning and American abstract expressionism as influential on their art. Let me confirm this and add additional confusion
Images of Native Americans
45 Andy Warhol “Russel Means” 46 Reiner Fetting " Indianer"1982, 230x190cm
47 Darren Vigil Gray “War Shirt” 1989
Image 48 A.R. Penck"TRR" 1982 ,Synthetic resin on canvas,280 x500cm, documenta 7
Image 49 Jaune Quick-to-See Smith - "Bison" 1991, mixed media on paper, 76 x 111cm
Collection Museum of World Culture, Frankfurt, Germany , Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt
Art critics, curators, collectors.... take a fast look at these moderist works by Native American artists such as shown here. Darren Vigil Gray and Jaune Quick-to-see Smith feel and see the "déja vu" as appropriation from Western modernism, find the word "copy" or more academic and at the same time diminishing " derivative ", say it’s not authentic or it’s ethnic and not a contemporary artistic statement (or even retardataire ) , it’s too Indian or too Western- and are done with it. One attitude they all have in common - they judge from only one perspective - theirs, with a remarkable lack of curiosity for the work and doubt about their judgment. For the Indian artists it means, that his art is not considered valid, his statement not important, his striving not recognized and honored , the uniqueness of his culture not represented and valued within the larger society. In other words, the society at large is not truly interested in cultural diversity, only interested in diversity of individual visions of the same subject - the own Euro-Western society. and the interesting conceptual global players in the art world.
Jean-Hubert Martin, the initiator and curator for the exhibition "Les Magiciens de la Terre" explained his choice as to artists from tribal descent, “ I choose those who work within the traditional imagery and mediums, not those, that copy Western artists".
And two recent voices from Frankfurt:
In an article reviewing the exhibition "Aratjara" Art of the first Australians, Wilfried Wiegand states, that Australian aboriginal artists have found the only acceptable way of transition, comparing the questionable results of native Americans (still referring to the studio style and contemporary African tribal artists.
Eduard Beaucamp, German art critique may be quoted here and stand for many with his regretful observation expressed in the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung:
"The impressive conquest by modernism ( modernist art movement) of the farthest corner of the world proved to be the greatest pyrrhic victory. Modernism has thus apparently reached its goal and achieved the universality it was striving for. However this victory was won at the expense of all ethnic and historical cultures by imposition, repression, conformism and destruction. Even in the remote exotic and primitive regions, who served as sources for the early modernists and their attempts to rejuvenate themselves, there now echoes the worn-out idioms of post-modernism."
What Eduard Beaucamp does not want to realize is the fact, that repression, imposition and conformism imposed those realities that make the cultural truthfulness of these cross-cultural artistic statements in a time of transition and changing identities.
The symbolism, history, aesthetic and images of Native people have been "exploited" and appropriated by Modernism and within the postmodern art scene by mainstream artists.
There” the “appropriation” of anything from anywhere ist condoned as “critical” strategy. Yet, as Lowery Stoke Sims has pointed out such visual plagiarism” has its limits, especially when it reaches out in other cultures” in which this intellectual preciosity has no frame of reference…Approbriation may be, when all is said amd done, voyeurism at its most blatant”
When Native artists refer to and use their own aesthetic heritage they are considered traditional, if they are influenced by the modernist styles, they are criticized to copy and be "behind the time" or the art is considered derivative.
Let me share a different view on Native American Modernism:.
These artists don’t copy - can you possibly imagine, what it means to serious Native artists in their lonely quest to find their individual expression to communicate their culture to be denounced like this.
Modernism is coming full circle
Listening to these artists and follow up on the Native American art scene for so many years, I know they confirm with innovative spirit the artistic search and conclusions of the Western modernist artists. Joe Herrera confirms Klee, Darren Vifil Gray confirms Matisse and the expressionists; David Johns confirms Kandisky in respect of expressing spirituality and may serve as example to prove that the process of Modernism is coming full circle. Kandinsky in his search to overcome materialism as the dominant force in the modern Western civilization, searched to express the essence of spirituality in the art. The medieval artist would paint an angel, a halo or a dove or express spirituality in symbolism. But Kandisky didn’t want to paint an image of spiritual beings, he wanted to evoke a sense of spirituality behind all ideas that materialized. He found the artistic solution in abstract compositions of color and form .
You have to get rid of the form to express the essence of it. David Johns, living in the spiritual world- view of the Navajo, that traditionally is expressed in symbolic images only understood by the Navajo unless explained to outsiders. In his search to evoke understanding for the beauty and spirituality of his culture, he expresses it not mythological but in its essence and universality. He concentrates and condenses an idea to its essence and found the solution in the composition of abstractions in color, movement and form. I had five people - 2 of them professional artists educated a.o.at the Städelschule in Frankfurt - looking for three hours at David Johns "Yei Dancer" painting fom 1989 Their conclusion was: He not only expressed the dynamic of the dancer, but the essence of dance as such." Something like this is the ultimate manifestation an artist can achieve. Reality, idea, form essence become one ..
Conclusion by American art critic and activist Lucy Lippard
" Ironically and sadly, access to information about global art is more available to the educated and well-traveled Western artist than to most of the heirs of those de-historized cultures. This constitutes a dilemma for the nonwhite or non-Western artist whose work may even be called derivative just because its authentic sources have already been skimmed off by white artists”. The art world’s assumption of its centrality and it’s massive absorption of Native imagery through "neo- primitive "art, made Flathead/Shoshone painter Jaune Quick-to-See Smith "feel sad because it’s material we could be using. White artists can be "objective" about it, where Indians are "subjective" and not exactly sure how to draw on their backgrounds, because they are so much closer. When Native Americans refer to Indian art, it is automatically assumed to be "traditional" by white critics, even when it transcends tradition and mixes with Euro-American styles." Quote 1985 , Smith in conversation with Lucy Lippard.
Quote by curators Margret Archuleta and Rennard Strickland:
"Native American painters such as George Longfish have been increasingly influenced by Modern non-Indian painters who were in turn influenced by the primitive - a classic example of cross-fertilization. How often do we hear or read about this remarkable chapter in American art history? It is like a mirror, reflecting back upon a mirror. The contemporary Indian mirrors the Cubist and the abstract expressionist, who mirrors the carver of Indian masks, who mirror a Native world view."
And an artist’s voice with a quote and two paintings
"There is a particular richness to speaking two languages and finding a vision that’s common to both. As the poet can lift the imagination, so too I want to render a new inner-scope for the viewer". Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
Image 50 Klee “Bunte Gruppe” 1939
51 Quick-to- See Smith "Sunset on the Escarpment" 1987 Oil on Canvas, left detail
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith refers to these cross cultural borrowings in her painting "Sunset on the Escarpment” 1987 commenting this small section: “This Indian Head is a double trade - first Klee took it from us, now I claim it back.” Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
Contemporary Native American Art as investigation of changing and progression in consciousness:
As the introduction a story experiencing and practicing intercultural dialog
In 1993 I toured ten Indian students and professors from the IAIA in Santa Fe through Frankfurt, Main. They were invited by Boehringer Ingelheim during the exhibition Internationale Tage Ingelheim “Indianer Nordamerikas Kunst und Mythos” (Indians of North America; Art and Myth”. It started at the internationally acclaimed Staedel Arts Academy where they were puzzled to learn that there is no tuition – it’s free for the students, the arts education is payed by the tax payer. That was a true culture shock for the Indian students.
Second stop was the famous Staedel Art Museum Instead of imposing hundreds of fact on them, I introduced and showed to them some typical images of the canon of Western art history. by taking them from an early medieval painting "Das Paradiesgärtlein" from an unknown master , to Pontormo’s “Bildnis einer Dame”; Tischbein’s Goethe, Max Beckmann’s "Synagoge in Frankfurt" and the portrait of a lady; (Bildnis Käthe von Porada, 1924) Kirchner’s sculpture from a woman, Anselm Kiefer paintings and Stephan Balkenhol’s wood sculptures from the 1990s. and linked those works to the great epochs of humankind here at the Staedel Museum from medieval to classical Modernism . These works represented and exemplified within 7 centuries radical changes in perception and consciousness towards an ever greater individuality and subjectivity as subsequently expressed in the arts . One Student responded: “I immediately want to study art history - this is all about us”. The enthusiasm came to an end at the Museum of Modern Art where curator Dr. Mario Kramer toured us through the display of works from the collection – mostly conceptual art.
The general judgment of these Native American art students: We do not consider this to be art”
Living in the USA I was like a sponge taking in impressions and I was constantly learning and extended my own cultural experience limited within its own framework of references.. Until we moved back to Germany I was still pondering the question why I was so driven to bring Native American modern art to Germany. I did not share any of the romanticized notions about the Indians nor was I motivated to make a commitment within the narrow perspectives of minority issues - that only ends in tokenism. Coming back to Europe, it all fell into place. I reconnected the deeply internalized America experience with my European-philosophical background. Native American art became an instrument to clarify my own collective identity.
In regard of cultural interaction I related to the other with deep interest, appreciating the other for specific qualities, that only he/she could contribute to the society at large. As to art history, I saw art history with Western modernisms and Native modernism come full circle.
Out of this perspective let me try a more penetrating analyses of two pieces of art that may serve as a guidance through the progressions of the changing human consciousness.
52 Contemporary Jemez pottery "Village Crier" 1983 by Maxine Toya, Towa Jemez Pueblo
The village crier is both a mythological being and a real person in tribal life. He enters into the village at dawn, a time of transition. The transition from the passing night to the emerging new day. He symbolically connects the polarities of darkness and light, of day and night and he ritually separates them. He farewells the spirits of the night and welcomes the morning star and the dawn of the new sunlight. He ritually brings the one to an end and marks a new beginning. In the process he also wakes up the people in the village.
In all religions, the times of morning and evening dawn have been known as those times where man is in between dreamtime and his day time consciousness. And it was known and felt that in this stage of transition, he was especially receptive for messages from and connecting with the spiritual world - so traditionally in all religions it was and is the time of prayer.
Maxine Toya takes this figure and artistically expresses it in a literal way. She uses the traditional medium from her pueblo, the clay and there is no doubt that the figure is a pueblo crier and there are various indications that it is from Jemez Pueblo. If you know more about contemporary Jemez pottery, you identify it as a piece created by Maxine Toya. Though embodied with tribal identification it is uniquely individual, innovative and of outstanding craftsmanship. With all these intrinsic qualities Maxine Toya’s pieces are highly esteemed by collectors.
But again, the piece is created within clearly defined tribal mythology and its figurative manifestation- historically as to the consciousness of man it is an inner picture deriving from a collective consensus the individual tribal member is not separated from and thus subject to individual reflection towards transition. Oral tradition of the myth collectively sets the framework of his identity and how he relates to the world.
So all traditional objects of art were created out of the collective consensus and for the confirmation and perpetuation of it in ceremonies, rituals or communal life. The creator of such objects was esteemed for his craftsmanship and not his own vision or interpretation. This marks all the difference between historical objects and modern pieces of art. On the level of perception, there is the same difference: where we see aesthetic, the tribal man sees spirituality expressed, where we see form, the tribal man relates to his mythology.
We look at the same thing and "see " totally different things because we relate to it from a different perception, understanding, consciousness and/or "world view".
Tere is another version from the village crier by contemporary artist
Image 53 Darren Vigil Gray “The Search” 1991, mixed media on paper, 62 x 62 cm
Let me share Darren Vigil-Gray’s statement on this painting:
"The Search" deals with the concept of identity, native American identity. Native Americans constant struggle dealing with modern society and what it believes we should be. Desiring certain elements of it and shunning others. Always aware that assimilation can take you away from what is real for you. ....
The individual looks with an intense stare, maybe into the future, realizing like a prophet that there will obviously be some loss of culture, but ultimately we have survived and the struggle continues." Darren Vigil Gray 1992
The mythological figure is transformed into a symbol of identity. Now what happened from Maxine Toya’s Village crier to Darren Vigil Gray’s village crier in "The Search".
It’s if I may express it in the philosophical concept and the terms of Hegel’s world spirit the unfolding of the changing human consciousness with drastic thresholds marking ends and new beginnings. It is not unpredictable but like the unfolding of the metamorphoses of a plant from seed to the ever same looking sprout to differentiation in the leaves to the most distinct “individuality: the blossom to fruit and the seeds with the potential abundance of renewal....You find the same concept of evolution in all major mythologies - including the Hopi Pueblo Indians the with stages of the mythological worlds – ( according to that we are living in the fourth world – the most materialistic) and the unfolding of the seven steps of human consciousness.
The threshold between the two pieces of art is the change from myth to concept ( vom Bild zum Begriff ). This is at once the change from tribal/collective to individual/self consciousness; from a cyclic understanding to a linear perception of time. Only when man has gone through this major change in human condition, the transition from myth to concept, he is free to create.
The artist has gained a new tool - freedom - to create and express his unique vision. As humans, we’re free to look at our own lives, find and reflect our own world view. We pay a high price for this freedom - the loss of security inherent to the collective and the loss of soul quality inherent to the myth. The concept is an achievement of the intellect - an abstract idea generalized from particular instances and phenomenon. The concept with the loss of myth or generally said, with the loss of it’s origin is hollow.
An example may help to understand the difference: We say “I’m happy” – nothing says what circumstances nourish that state of a feeling. The traditional tribal person conveys the same in an image and content– a myth,“a Sinnbild” in German “I stand in the center of the good”
Native American art as a force of integrating and mixing divers cultural influences
With the last piece I show here I want to refer to the complexity I mentioned at the beginning:
Upon my invitation, Bob Haozous was artist in Residence in Frankfurt. Deeply concerned with our threatened environment, he decided to make an ecological statement.
The creative process was the most fascinating interplay between the two specific and contradicting qualities from his tribal heritage and his Euro-American influence.
Step by step he developed a clear unique conceptual idea for his statement – that’s Western - but he was searching most intensely for symbols that would convey his message understandable to everybody - that refers to the collective tribal consensus the mask maker was guided by. Bob Haozous reshaped and juxtaposed the fragments of both cultural realities until a third reality emerged, combining the complexity of both.
Image 54 "Apfelbaum - Sacred Images" Bob Haozous 1992, 11 steel sculptures
Image 55"Apfelbaum # 8/11” ( add. Since 2010, collection Museum for Ethnology, Berlin )
Step by step he developed a clear unique conceptual idea for his statement – that’s the intellectual approach as we know it from Western artists - but he was searching most intensely for symbols that would convey his message understandable to everybody - that refers to the collective tribal consensus the mask maker for example was guided by. Bob Haozous reshaped and juxtaposed the fragments of both cultural realities until a third reality emerged, combining the complexity of both.
Let me share some experiences and typical forms of interaction :
Positive discrimination. Bob was special, because he was Indian. There was not such a big interest that he was a very important native American and American artist.
The newspaper did not sent an art critique but someone to write about special local events.
Two art instructors from the famous arts academy, the Städelschule Frankfurt looked at the trees:
Prof. Bayrle at the opening (very nice that he came ) " well, it’s a product of folk art"
Let me correct, there is absolutely nothing in those trees that justifies such a diminishing and disqualifying remark except that may be his perception was blurred by the fact that the artist is Indian and what these Indians make is folk art.
Prof. Raimer Jochims:
What you have here is too much influenced by Western art.
"These trees are not a statement against the destruction of our environment. It is an affirmative statement that will not change anything. And on top, the ax is not a symbol of destruction,.....
He ignored, that for Bob the ax is a symbol of destruction. Indians who did not meet the demands of the conquistadores, got their hands cut off with an ax.....
Image 56 Bob Haozous "The Discoverer" 1992 ( Note the sward and the hands )
Interaction now does not mean that the ax becomes the same symbol for me. But I have to know what it means for the person I interact with and then I may unexpectedly realize that it means something different for me. Interaction in this kind of process gives both sides a clearer sense of who they are.
Both Professors - and they stand for many, did not objectify their opinion, their critique, their perception by an educational process that applies to the perception of every artist and piece of art in our own Western mainstream art.
Conclusion and challenges:
The experience of America’s Native people seen from the artists perspective offers a powerful message about cultural persistence and change. As the world moves toward the 21st century, the artistic and cultural vision of twentieth-century Native American artists can help all humankind appreciate the dual task of preserving historical values while building new traditions. These artists can help in understanding the universal challenge of responding to cultural and technological change."
M. Archuleta and Rennard Strickland.
Let me pick up in a short excursion that universal challenge for Western man. His culture crumbles into sub-cultures shattering even the lowest common denominators of traditional value systems. The individual, who was the initial sparkle and cradle of Western civilization, is in danger of being absorbed by and lost in superficial conformity and egocentricity, disconnected from a sense of belonging and thus, who he is. Hopefully these are growing pains towards a sense of global humankind with the awareness of interdependence .
So with ongoing migrations and multi-culturalism in former mostly homogeneous nations, radical changes within traditional societies faced with the emancipation processes and upheavals into Modernism as well as with an emerging globalized world we’re all asked to ponder the question of our identity which is more and more a personal construct The frightening answers come from questionable outer securities such as nationalism. The inner security must come from the essence and core of cultural traditions and values that shape our collective memory and identity. Within it we find our uniqueness as individuals that constitutes the modern, democratic, pluralistic society based on the respect and tolerance for the basic human and civil rights and our human dignity as expressed in the freedom of the arts.
Chaim Potok concluded his reent lecture at the America House. “We must think of the best we have to offer from our cultures and bring this into the society at large to the benefit of mankind”. Already in 1941 Eleonore Roosevelt wrote in the foreword of the catalog of the MoMA exhibition.” In appraising the Indian’s past and present achievements, we realize not only that his heritage constitutes part of the artistic and spiritual wealth of this country, but also that the Indian people of today have a contribution to make toward the America of the future.”
As exemplified by the works of Maxine Toya, Darren Vigil Gray and Bob Haozous Indian artists create inspired by their cultural sensibility the best of their culture as unique individual visions and sovereign cultural expressions in the crafts and the visual arts conveying Indian reality and timeless truths in a time of transition, overlapping traditions and changing identities.
Dorothee Peiper-Riegraf, January 1994