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Zig Jackson, Indian Photographing Tourist Photographing Indians, Crow Fair, Montana

Zig Jackson, Indian Photographing Tourist Photographing Indians, Crow Fair, Montana (1991), gelatin silver print [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Feb 6-May 8] Courtesy of the artist

Contemporary Native Photographers and the Edward Curtis Legacy: Zig Jackson, Wendy Red Star, Will Wilson

Portland Art Museum
Portland OR – Feb 6-May 8, 2016

Wendy Red Star, Peelatchiwaaxpáash/Medicine Crow (Raven)

Wendy Red Star, Peelatchiwaaxpáash/Medicine Crow (Raven), 1880, artist-manipulated image, digitally reproduced from original photograph by Charles Milton Bell, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Feb 6-May 8] Courtesy of the artist

Edward Curtis, Black Eagle, Nez Percé

Edward Curtis, Black Eagle, Nez Percé (1911), photogravure, from The North American Indian [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Feb 6-May 8]

Will Wilson, William Wilson, Citizen of the Navajo Nation, Trans-Customary Diné Artist

Will Wilson, William Wilson, Citizen of the Navajo Nation, Trans-Customary Diné Artist (2012), from the series Critical Indigenous [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Feb 6-May 8]

This thought-provoking exhibition juxtaposes the work of three contemporary Native American artists with historical photographs by Edward Curtis, whose extensive documentation of more than 80 Native American tribes was originally published in a 20-book set between 1907 and 1930. That renowned publication, The North American Indian, illustrates the cultural practices, languages and traditions of daily tribal life near the turn of the 20th century. At the time, Curtis thought Native Americans to be a vanishing race, and his depictions of them were often romanticized representations meant to capture the pre-European Native lifestyle. This exhibit features more than 70 portfolio prints of Curtis’s work and a complete set of The North American Indian.

Zig Jackson, Wendy Red Star and Will Wilson all create present-day imagery that contrasts Curtis’s non-Native perspective with contemporary photographic portrayals. Zig Jackson’s work strives to dismantle the myths and stereotypes of outmoded ways of thinking still present in the popular American viewpoint. Through witty images of tourists photographing people of Native American descent, Jackson captures an unsettling cultural ignorance.

Both Wendy Red Star and Will Wilson created new work for this exhibit. Wendy Red Star’s work is based on Curtis’s images of the Crow Nation and on her own experiences at the annual Crow Fair. Will Wilson, reflecting on Curtis’s interpretations of Navajo culture, captures his portrait subjects (photographed with significant objects of the subjects’ own choosing) in a way that activates their personal voices and Indigenous authority.

Allyn Cantor


 Sun, Feb 7, 2016