So I just got the copy of Our Indian Princess by Nancy Marie Mithlo in the mail the other day. It is definitely on the scholarly side of things! (Not that I was surprised by that…) Anyhow, it has been making for an interesting read and Mithlo brings up quite a bit about identity for artists with a focus on Native women artists.
The following passages from pages 64-65 was among the things that I earmarked. (Yes, I’m a page folder—at least I am when I don’t have any sticky tabs handy.)
The existence of a pan-Indian sensibility has been critiqued both by Native American and activists who believe that tribal traditions are lost in the embracement of a homogenized identity and by intellectuals who deny the validity of this generalized descriptive. Authors Terry Straus and Debra Valentino discuss how concerns over the development of an intertribal “Indian” in the American Indian community were common in the 1970s, when pan-Indianism was understood inevitably to displace tribal knowledge, identity, and connection for Native American in urban areas: “Pan-Indianism, an artificial foil invented to facilitate federal policy, was seen gradually and insidiously to become accepted by Indian people as their own identity” (Straus and Valentino 2001: 85-86). This tendency to accept dominant definitions of themselves as an “ethnic group” and a “racial minority” was interpreted at the time as internal colonization and a loss of self-determination.
Straus and Valentino conclude that detribalization, which was feared in the 1970s as a consequence of urban relocation, has developed into retribalization, wherein urban Indians forge relationships with their home communities from an urban base. Straus and Valentino’s argument advances two parallel points: first, “the rift between urban and reservation Indian people is artificial and imposed” (Straus and Valentino 2001:86)—urban in this view is not a kind of Indian, but an experience that most Indian people have had—and, second, the concept of a tribe is an invention of the US government. “’Tribe’ was neither a Native concept nor a native political reality. Tribes began in the conflict and negotiation with non-Indian governments” (86). Defined territories, political units, and tribal leaders were identified to facilitate the concession of lands and rights in the treaty-making phase of American history. This codification of tribal identities was further elaborated under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.
Ms. Mithlo is SO COOL!!!
In addition to gathering materials for this new project, I’ve also been getting some research material. Today I picked up a book about Pochontas by the late Paula Gunn Allen that I’ve started reading. (In addition to Art & Physics… I tend to read more than one book at a time.) I also just ordered a book called Our Indian Princess by Nancy Marie Mithlo, another respected Native scholar. She had helped Wade Chambers put together a distance-learning class called ‘Indigenous Visual Perspectives’ that I took from the Institute of American Indian Arts a few years ago. The section of that course on stereotypes, especially dealing with the ‘Indian Princess’ phenomenon, has stayed in my mind and is likely where the idea for this current project first germinated. Anyhow, here’s the book I’ve just started reading:
Contrast that with the Disney movie poster and see what you think. I also just realized that I’ve never seen the movie. In fairness, I should probably watch it, right? Of course, Mel Gibson did do the voice for John Smith and he sure doesn’t seem to be getting much positive press lately!
Hyperallergic.com (Sensitive to Art & it’s Discontents) had an article that a former classmate was sharing on facebook today. It is called “YourName.com” and deals with the recent advent of how artists are self-promoting themselves online with their websites.
Here I am bringing it up on a blog on my own artist website, but I do so for a very specific reason. The main body seems to be a description of the typical things found in artist website, but the final paragraph asks the following questions:
“Is making your own website equatable to the rite of passage that is the BFA Thesis, or is it somehow more sinister? Does an artist even exist today without a dot com and without gallery representation?”
I find it interesting when much is made of how “sinister” it can be for an artist to participate openly in the business world. The stereotype of an artist appears to limit them to only being concerned with creative pursuits—any attempt at profiting from their work means that they have somehow sold-out. But I think the proliferation of artist websites is natural and good. Why not try to make a living doing what you love? I’m tired of the subtle notions that are presented about how financial success and/or notoriety for an artist are something to be ashamed of. In many cases, it sounds more like jealousy from those that are not as successful. I don’t know exactly where my path will lead me, and I’m not really motivated to try and become an “art star” at all, but I will wholeheartedly admit that my ultimate goal is to be able to support myself financially with my art.
As mentioned previously, I’m currently reading a book called Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light by Leonard Shlain. Since I only worked a half-day today and it was really sunny out, I spent an hour or so sitting by the pool with my book, enjoying the sun. I don’t know whether there is any truth to the connections he makes between what was happening in Western modern art and the advent of new discoveries in physics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but it is certainly interesting to look back and be able to at least read that interpretation into things. Here’s one intriguing passage about Monet and how he would paint the same thing (Rouen Cathedral, haystacks) repeatedly at different times to try and capture their essence:
In his concern for time, Monet enlarged the moment of the present by capturing the fugitive impression of now. He even invented a name for his style: He called it “Instantaneity.” This word comes not from the visual world of space, but rather from the abstract notion of time. Monet was not at all scientifically informed. He would have been surprised had anyone told him he had invented a radical new way to see time before anyone devised a correspondingly totally new way to think about time.
I’m a little farther in now and although I wasn’t especially impressed with his handling of what he calls “primitive” art, it was refreshing to hear an opinion that, while focused on Western art, still acknowledges that the many alternate worldviews are also correct and can exist alongside dominant ideologies.
And, you know how I like taking pictures of the sky? Well, when I looked up and was admiring the blueness of the sky and how the tall Douglas Firs intruded into it, I snapped a picture on my iPhone. And guess what? Although it looked like a fairly flat blue surface to my eyes, the camera captured waves of sunlight streaming down. That’s one thing I love about my iPhone. It may not be the most sophisticated device for photography, but sometimes the surprises that it does catch are totally worth it.
While going through some old letters and papers last weekend, I happened upon a slip of paper that had that sentence written on it. I don’t remember where I came across it, but I know I’d liked it well enough to try and keep it in mind. Having found it again, I looked online (oh internets!) and discovered that it comes from the following passage:
"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
– Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Yup. It still resonates within.