American Indian Culture as Depicted in Art
Art is a way of representing the kinds of thoughts people have. American Indian society started to express themselves through forms of arts such as paintings and pedestals. Before getting into the actual art pieces and its characteristics, it is crucial to have knowledge about post colonialism. Post colonialism is different from post modernism. “It is sustained attention to the imperial process in colonial, and an examination of the strategies to subvert the actual material and discursive effects of that process” (Pettenuzo, Lucas). Again, it is basically talking about the culture since colonial process from the time period of colonialism until today. We could also say that Indian American who lived in United States today were minorities that we covered so far in the previous essays. In the previous essays, we were following the path of various minority groups like women and black people, representing themselves and seeking the authentic moment. However, this time, rather than following the same pathway, this essay would be focusing more on linking the American Indian culture into the pre-colonial past.
From the lecture, American Indian society is trying to seek the past that assimilates to the dominant culture. In addition to linking with the pre-colonial past, we would also focus on native American culture today. There were two very famous artists; Fred Wilson and James Luna. Both Fred Wilson and James Luna tried to show how culture should be represented and preserved by museums. Fred Wilson opened up a mining museum and James Luna opened up an exhibition historical museum. I wanted to demonstrate the different ways of representation in museums between the two artists and artwork. Fred Wilson’s mining museum had a certain perspective and ideological perspective when we look at the representation of truth. He also sometimes emphasized certain views that he wanted to pursue. However, James Luna think differently. James Luna focused not only the time period before the western culture colonized the people but also the about the Indian American people now such how they changed since the colonization. For Fred Wilson art pieces, I will explore the works with the installation in the very beginning entrance of the mining museum. For James Lunar art pieces, I would focus on Artifact and how this well represented a view of James Luna. This paper will discuss how different forms of art represented and contributed Contemporary American Indian Arts and Post colonialism.
At first, Fred Wilson was a part white, black, native American mix raced man who was dealing with how cultures should get represented by museum. From the lecture, His mining museum became a reflection of how minorities cultures were represented according to a particular ideological stance that may or may not visible to the museum goers. This is very different from other normal museums. When we think about museums, they normally pose a neutral stance that actually deliver the past. For example, professor gave us an example of Seattle Art museum. When we get into the modern section of Seattle Art museum, it is easy to see how they set up the installation coming from a neutral standpoint. Nevertheless, Fred Wilson never hesitated to show perspectives and certain views.
In order to show how the museum has perspectives, I want to focus on the mission statement, the very first installation with the globe written with truth, three Pedestals bearing white marble on the left, and the three vacant black Pedestals on the right. Mission statement is a very short paragraph of explaining the mining museum. In the mining museum project, every single object and painting came from the holdings of Maryland historical society. It was possession of the society. It was in the composition.
Therefore, the mission statement of the Maryland historical society was “incorporated in 1844, the Maryland Historical Society was founded to collect, preserve, and study objects and documents related to the state’s history in reference to any remarkable event or character, especially biographical memoirs and anecdotes of distinguished persons’ (Carbonell, Bettina Messias). The mission includes elimination and any facts that doubt full north American tribe. Again, the missions statement is about the majority of culture, which is focusing on the time period before the colonialism started. We can also say that the museum was founded in order to give voice to the history of Maryland and objective collected. Also this is that we are telling about one objective to draw attention first to the museums while they say that nothing comes to a neutral stance.
The purpose of the museum was that while looking through the spaces in the museum, forget the entire history of people’s color. When walk into mining museum, the first object is a trophy of a globe with the big bold word truth. When we look at the globe specifically, we can see that the globe is not the same globe of what we know already. We can recognize that the globe we see is not particularly accurate when we look at the representation of truth. When we look at the globe, it emphasizes the western world by placing the southern world below. This emphasizes the size of Europe and north America by putting North America on top and rest of this countries down below. Even the visual representation of globe has a particular perspective of the globe. Next to the globe, there are three Pedestals bearing white marble busts of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Banneker on the left. None of them are Marylanders. None of them had any contributions to Maryland history. On the right side of the globe, there are three vacant black pedestals of Henry Clay, Napoleon Bonaparte, Andrew Jackson. All of them are Marylanders. “Where are the busts of the prominent personages? Did no one see fit to “collect” or commemorate them? Whose truth is on exhibit at the Maryland Historical Society? Whose history is being told? Who writes it? Who owns it?” (Carbonell, Bettina Messias). This means it is very important topic of making visible underrepresented. We set an alarm for how the truth was represented.
Next artist is James Luna. James Luna was a member of southern California member of house and took over a natural exhibition history museum. While so many people just focused on the majority of Indian culture which was focusing on the time period before the colonialism, He focused on the Indian culture today as well. At first, he focused on calling an attention to the Cultural Institution. Museums frame the culture set that they were representing in a predictable way almost always representing them count on the past. The past age is bygone age that does not exist anymore today. Most historical museum focuses on past.
Nevertheless, he wanted to change it. Not only we should focus on how people lived in the past, he also wanted to compare the culture between the people who lived in the past before the colonialism and the people who are living today. There are lot of stereotypes when we think about native Americans. According to the lecture, the professor came up with some questions like how well did the stereotypes match up to the real people who exists today? who are of African American ancestry? How does the stereotypes function as a lens that we see people? and how they see themselves by the moment of past? In order to answer the question, I thought one of his art piece artifact would be the best example which can best describes his focus. What he did was that he laid down in museum on a dirt. This means that the native American himself that is devoted to historical representation of native American cultures. Since James Luna was not able to lie down there for the whole time, he made a same miniature of himself lying down the same place to show the art. In my personal interpretation of this would be that his miniature is showing the proof that James Luna was here before. This miniature refers to the past. This perfectly matches with James Luna’s view point.
As I mentioned before, he wanted to focus on how Indian people live today rather than just focusing on the past. The real body of James Luna which lied down in the past would represent the culture in the past. However, since James Luna also values the present culture how people live today, he made a miniature of him so that everyone can see the body today.
In conclusion, Fred Wilson’s first installation in the mining museum with the globe and James Luna’s work artifact clearly shows artistic strategies of preserving the culture and showing the culture through the form of museums. Fred Wilson focused on giving perspectives in museum through the installation in the beginning and the mission statement. As I mentioned above, Fred Wilson showed his perspectives in a museum, which is not normal. The mission statement and the beginning of the first installation clearly shows how he created his perspectives. Next, James Luna used an art piece artifact to show the importance of present Indian culture after the colonization. Personally, I was really touched by the movement of James Luna. While all the other people were tied into just a past, He opened up other people’s mind that today is also important. Past is important. However, I truly believe that what we should truly appreciate the most is present. Past is a result from present.
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