(Native) Art @ Microsoft

Living right by the Microsoft campus has some advantages… on weekends and evenings it can be a really great place to go for a walk. For instance there is this large stone in a pond by one of the buildings. Also, since Bryn works there I occasionally get a chance to go in and check out some of the art they have. There’s some really great work, and a large variety of styles, including a few pieces of Native art that I’ve found.

In one of the cafeteria’s close to where this stone fountain is located is a series of six masks by Tlingit artist James Schoppert (1947-1992). I didn’t take a pic (should have!) but the masks are really great. However, he is not identified as Tlingit, or even Native American. Just American on the accompanying wall text.

In another building there is a large totem carved by David Boxley (Tsimshian, b. 1952). It sits in a main entrance lobby. The label, however, is again a little suprising to me.

Although the label talks about Tsimshian culture, it only refers to Boxley as “Native American.” I’m sure this is more common in the general art world than I’m aware, but so much of my research into Native artists in museum and other major collections place a lot of emphasis on identifying the tribal affiliation. There is, of course, also the fact that many Native people themselves prefer to identify themselves this way too!

Still, it is nice to see some really great Native artists included in a major corporate art collection. It’s great to see the art treated as art. All too often, I feel that Native art is put in it’s own separate category and it rarely seems to be shown in settings mixed with “Western” art.

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