Posts in: EN252
October 25, 2018
Our class met with artist Rayna Hernandez (Yankton Sioux/Lakota) who graduated in 2016 with art and creative writing degrees at the University of South Dakota and is a former student of Professor Natanya Pulley. Her visit to the Colorado College was sponsored by the Fine Arts Center Mellon Faculty Fellowship and by the Provost’s Faculty Visiting Speaker Grant. Rayna had some of her artwork showcased in the Coburn Gallery in the Worner Campus Center. She did a presentation that explained her inspiration for her artwork and also talked about how one of her idols, Oscar Howe (http://aktalakota.stjo.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8858), influences her art.
“Who ever said that my paintings are not in the traditional Indian style has poor knowledge of Indian art indeed. There is much more to Indian Art than pretty, stylized pictures. There was also power and strength and individualism (emotional and intellectual insight) in the old Indian paintings. Every bit in my paintings is a true and studied fact of Indian paintings. Are we to be held back forever with one phase of Indian painting, with no right for individualism, dictated to as the Indian always has been, put on reservations and treated like a child, and only the White Man knows what is best for him? Now even in art, “You little child do what we think is best for you, nothing different.” Well I am not going to stand for it. Indian Art can compete with any art in the world, but not as a suppressed Art. I see so much of the mismanagement and treatment of my people. It makes me cry inside to look at these poor people. My father died there about three years ago in a little shack, my two brothers still living there in shacks, never enough to eat, never enough clothing, treated as second class citizens. This is one of the reasons I have tried to keep the fine ways and culture of my forefathers alive. But one could easily turn to become a social protest painter. I only hope the Art World will not be one more contributor to holding us in chains.” ~Oscar Howe (Yanktonai Dakota; 1915-1983)
One of the main topics we have discussed in our class is how there are certain expectations that most people have for what they think Native/Indian art is and what it should be. We learned how many Native artists are not making their art to meet these expectations and how they are changing the idea of what Native art is and what Native art can be. Rayna shares her life experiences and identity in her artwork. She incorporates written work, beads, and other materials into her paintings.
“Hernandez writes her ideas and experiences on anything she can find–napkins, receipts, scratch paper. Then she makes collages from those notes onto a canvas and paints over the top, creating and uneven and rugged background. “So my writing is incorporated in my paintings at least for my ideas and it’s also literally incorporated in the paintings.”…She paints abstract shapes over the written background of her work, leaving only a few words visible. She often adds a female form as the centerpiece–modeling many images after her own body.” (http://listen.sdpb.org/post/vermillion-artist-shares-life-experiences-and-identity-through-paintings)
Rayna and Professor Pulley have done a collaboration together which has been featured in the book “#NotYourPrincess Voices of Native American Women.” Professor Pulley had written “Falling” and had asked Rayna to do an art piece, “Morning Star,” to accompany it. It was a pleasure to meet Rayna and to have been inspired by her artwork.
October 25, 2018
Our class had a trip to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (FAC) and we went on a tour with Polly Nordstrand (Hopi) who is the Curator of the Southwest Art Collection at the FAC. We learned about the hierarchy of cultures, how the art world perpetuates elitism, how painting is considered the highest art form, how Native art was not considered “proper art” until the 1920s, and how there are imbalances in art history. When we viewed the Southwest Art Collection, we learned that before 1492/pre-contact, the Indigenous Peoples of what is now called the “Americas” already had trading systems in place. With the colonization of the “Americas” came the destruction of these trading systems and the enslavement/genocide of the Indigenous Peoples who were already there as well as the enslavement of the Indigenous Peoples from Africa. Colonization/westward expansion affected Indigenous Peoples, including their art, because it brought about political/economical transformation, the idea of “owning the land,” the commodification of food sources, new materials, cultural entrepreneurs who made culture part of the economy, and more. The white art market, especially in the Southwest, forced Native artists to make Native art how “Western eyes” saw and valued their artwork. For example, we learned that Native pottery was originally made for utilitarian purposes. Now, Native pottery in general is made to be aesthetically pleasing so it can be sold to art collectors/dealers/galleries and to be used for decorative purposes.
We also got to see and learn about two exhibits that were curated by Joy Armstrong (Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the FAC). We saw Virgil Ortiz’s (Cochiti Pueblo) “ReVOlution – Rise Against the Invasion” exhibit (October 6, 2018-January 6, 2019) and learned about the upcoming “In the Footsteps of My Ancestors” exhibit (October 27, 2018-February 10, 2019) by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish).
Virgil (https://virgilortiz.com) is the 2018 fall Andrew W. Mellon Artist-in-Residence for the FAC at the Colorado College. He has used different art mediums, including the traditional Cochiti Pueblo method of pottery making, to tell the widely unknown and untaught story of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. He tells the story of this historic event while using science fiction, fantasy, contemporary art, modern technology, and Indigenous futurism components to engage larger audiences. The storyline dates from the time of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 in New Mexico to 500 years into the future in 2180. Some of the characters in the story include the Aeronauts, Po’Pay, Translator and the Spirit World Army, Tahu and her army of Blind Archers, Runners, and Gliders.
“Set in the future of 2180, the pueblos are in chaos, the invasion of Native land continues, the scourge of war rages everywhere. The Aeronauts summon their fleet and prepare for extreme warfare against the invading Castilian forces. Desperately, the Aeronauts search for any remaining clay artifacts from the battlefields. They know that challenges and persecution will continue, so it is imperative to preserve and protect their clay, culture, language, and traditions from extinction.” (https://www.csfineartscenter.org/exhibits/virgil-ortiz/)
“Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (jaunequick-to-seesmith.com) is one of the U.S.’s finest indigenous talents and a late-career artist with extraordinary aesthetic, intellectual and curatorial achievements to her credit. Coming of age when Abstract Expressionism with its white male tenor dominated, Smith pushed back and developed a strong personal vision forged from belonging to two marginalized groups by birth (female and Native American) and one by choice (non-urban), aligning them more closely with the mainstream art world. This exhibition mines Smith’s cross-cultural experience and Salish-Kootenai identity and demonstrates the evolution of her lifelong aesthetic investigations in which she simultaneously questions and creates American history. In the Footsteps of My Ancestors examines themes that perennially recur in Smith’s work, including conflict, compassion, peace, the cycle of life, irony, and identity. The artist has always operated on a cusp – culturally, temporally, aesthetically, and from a gender perspective – which gives her work an attention-getting vitality, originality, and relevance. Her role in the shift toward deepening respect for Native American contemporary art cannot be understated, and her work is at once earthy, vibrant, sophisticated, and compassionate. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: In the Footsteps of My Ancestors is organized by the Yellowstone Art Museum.” (https://www.csfineartscenter.org/exhibits/jaune-quick-to-see-smith/)
Yá’át’ééh (greetings in Diné/Navajo)!
Our course during this third block (October 22-November 14, 2018) is EN252 Topics in Native American Literature: Arts and Literature by Native American Writers and Artists taught by Professor Natanya Pulley (Diné/Navajo). Professor Pulley has a B.A. in English and a Ph.D. in English (Fiction Writing) from the University of Utah. We are focusing on poetry, non-fiction, and fiction by contemporary Native American writers as well as contemporary art by Native American artists. We are interrogating curations and critical approaches to Indigenous arts and writing. We are also working on a decolonization exhibit project with the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Here are some of the course texts that we are reading this block:
Our course is connected to Professor Pulley’s Fine Arts Center (FAC) Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow position, which includes opportunities for our class to visit the FAC, have consults, and participate in different activities/exhibits. In September 2016, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the Colorado College $1.2M to support programs and CC courses at the Fine Arts Center museum. The grant is focused on the following initiatives:
- Supporting diversity and inclusion at CC
- Fostering interdisciplinary inquiry in the liberal arts
- Expanding innovative pedagogies
- Incorporating underrepresented voices into CC’s continuing academic conversation
- Building experiential learning opportunities that serve a multivalent community of learners
- Helping students engage with broad cultural shifts
Professor Pulley’s creation of this course was made possible thanks to the support and assistance from the FAC fellowship, Provost funds, VWS, and NEH fund.