Items once draped on horses, cars, or the arms and bodies of the Apsáalooke people are typically presented as static and sequestered under museum glass. Wendy Red Star reanimates these objects by visually contextualizing them within their original purpose. “Sweat stains from the horses and grass stains from playful children offer insights into the utilitarian beauty of objects meant to be in motion. It demonstrates the strong cultural connection that the Crow community maintains through the generations.”
Accession by Red Star evolved out of her Native Artist-in-Residence fellowship at the Denver Art Museum from 2016-2017. While in residence, Red Star used object card catalogues painted by Works Progress Administration artists that detailed the museum’s holdings of Native objects. Clothing and personal regalia objects were hand painted on small catalog cards with a written description on the reverse. The objects are beautifully rendered in watercolor by anonymous artists, who were often out of work commercial illustrators assigned to the Museums Extensions Projects during the 1930s-1970s.
“I felt a connection with the artists who created the work, and I was jealous of the time they got to spend with my ancestors’ materials… I am amazed by the similarities in the coupling of a photograph of a martingale on my daughter’s parade horse with a WPA artist’s brilliantly-crafted drawing of a beaded geometric martingale from the 1930s,” says Red Star. The resulting series is a vibrant meeting of past and present. It honors the artistry of the original makers who crafted the objects, as well as the anonymous artists who catalogued them. The Apsaalooke pieces are brought back to life, confirming their place in living history and the powerful legacy of her own Nation within the larger context of contemporary American art.
Red Star works across disciplines to explore the intersections of Native American ideologies and colonial structures, both historically and in contemporary society. Raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, Red Star’s work is informed both by her cultural heritage and her engagement with many forms of creative expression, including photography, sculpture, video, fiber arts, and performance. She is an avid researcher of historic archives and oral traditions who seeks to incorporate and recast her research with new and unexpected perspectives. Intergenerational collaborative work is integral to Red Star’s practice, along with creating a forum for the expression of Native women’s voices in contemporary art.
Wendy Red Star Apsáalooke: Children of the Large-Beaked Bird
On view: June 18 – October 17, 2022
Multimedia artist Wendy Red Star, a member of the Apsáalooke* (Crow) tribe, creates art to offer a narrative of Native people in America that focuses on an indigenous perspective rather than the typical stories told by non-Native scholars. Children of the Large-Beaked Bird provides an opportunity for children and adults to look at the history and identity of a people as told through their point of view. As the artist notes: “It is critical to preserve and pass along culture, heritage, and shared values while also providing future generations with a sense of identity, solidarity, and empowerment.”
This exhibition is made possible in part by Alan and Lynnette Eusden, the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc. and by Rochelle Media Works.
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