Two Things Part One: Sacajawea vs Miley Cyrus

Ended up waking up early this morning after a dream about my father. Had some coffee, went and got the mail from the last two days, and then finally turned to the bookshelf. I’m working on a concept for a piece I want to enter for an upcoming show that deals with women and food, and I revisited Nancy Marie Mithlo’s Our Indian Princess: Subverting the Stereotype. In the larger dialogue about Native women and how they are represented, there were two things that seemed significant to me this morning. I figured that I will write about them both in separate posts and publish one today, and one tomorrow.

Christopher A. Pardell: "Sacajawea" 2001. Bronze, 13"x21"x12". Photo by Legends Studios.

The above photo was included with selected images of artwork by Native women. This piece stuck out as it was created by a (presumably white?) man. As Mithlo says:

“It is instructive to compare the bedding-wrapped, apparently nude Sacajawea with photographer Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair photos of American teen pop star Miley Cyrus, which caused a scandal in 2008… As with so many other popular depictions of American Indian women, Sacajawea–a teenage mother and guide on the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806–is memorialized primarily as a sexually available object. The variance of interpretations for visual signifiers in twenty-first century popular American culture correlates with conventional notions of appropriate sexual behavior for young women and is informed differentially in relation to memory, history, and race.”

In the book, the image of Miley Cyrus was not shown. But let’s have a look, shall we? Compare and contrast:

Miley Cyrus as photographed by Annie Liebovitz for "Vanity Fair" in 2008. This photo caused a huge public uproar.


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