Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jamison Chas Banks | Terrortories: The Frontier

Crowd scene: Let them eat cake

Show flier
In "Terrortories: The Frontier," artist Jamison Chas Banks held both a performance and open studio as a culmination of several months’ art residency in the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe. Banks (Seneca-Cayuga-Cherokee) explores the aesthetics of nationalism and military totalitarianism—pushing it to such an extreme that it becomes absurd. Much in the manner of Slovenian artist collective Neue Slowenische Kunst, Banks repurposes imagery from diverse governmental institutions from all over the globe to demonstrate the universality, and futility, of conflict; however, in this performance, he and his collaborators, Daniel Grignon (UNsurgent) and Echota Killsnight (U.N. Envoy/Guard), resolved their conflict by signing a peace treaty, sharing peace medals, shooting a deerhide slingshot that showers the studio with hair—“a blessing” as Banks described it. Sadly, I missed the performance; however, the aftermath was still performative, people enjoying celebratory slices of white cake emblazoned with the United Nations’ logo, while visitors wandered in and plied the artists with questions.

mixed media painting
Banks is the printing instructor at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and his focus is serigraphy—creating multiple hand pulled prints that walk the line between propaganda and show poster. He has a flair for creating all encompassing environments with multiple layers and dimensions of art creation. In this installation, Banks had painted huge wall murals, overlaid with his videos. He displayed “artifacts”—knives, books—in cases, suggesting trophies of war. Prints and paintings of terrorists, such as Saddam Hussein were accompanied by Arabic music. Meanwhile Banks, Grignon, and Killsnight sat at their command post, a desk with obsolete radios and telephones, dressed in a pastiche of uniforms.

Banks and his collaborator represented “blue” and “red” forces—generic enemies that could be applied to war, sports, gangs, corporate raiders, politics, Coke/Pepsi, or simply human nature. While much of his imagery and material reference warfare and conflict directly, they also reflect the romanticized, patriotic view of warfare portrayed in movies, television, and novels—the mediated, heavily censored, and patriotic means that many of us civilizations experience war, which is so far removed from the horrors of those that directly experience conflict.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Jessica Metcalfe on “Native American Fashion from the 1940s to the Present, and into the Future”

Now that Jessica Metcalfe is living back on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota, the “super important fashion Mecca,” as she puts it, it’s a special treat to see her down in Santa Fe. The School of Advanced Research (SAR) organized her talk at the New Mexico History Museum—their talks have become so popular audiences can no longer squeeze into their auditorium at the SAR campus. Metcalfe earned her PhD in Native American fashion from Arizona State University, and in recent years she has become a force for Native fashion.

Metcalfe began with a quick history of Native fashion since the 1940s, beginning with Lloyd Kiva New, Cherokee from Oklahoma, who founded a wildly successful fashion studio in Scottsdale, Arizona. He sold to Neiman Marcus and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wore his designs. He was the first Native American to participate in an international fashion show: the 1951 Atlantic City International Fashion Show. His studio had 15 assistants, and New collaborated with such prominent artists as Andrew Van Tsinhnahjinnie (Navajo) and Charles Loloma (Hopi). The Heard Museum just acquired hundreds of fabric swatches from Lloyd’s studio.

“Lloyd believed the oldest art form across all cultures was personal adornment,” Metcalfe says, and continues, “He felt Native cultures were essential to American identity.” He flourished as a Native designer during a time when the United States Indian Policy was actively terminating tribes, trying to assimilate Native peoples into mainstream culture, and relocating families away from their tribal homelands.

Jessica Metcalfe at Beyond Buckskin's
"Pop Up Boutique" at the MOCNA
New took his philosophy about Native art and identity to Santa Fe, where he co-founded the Institute of American Indian Arts in 1962. That first decade is known as the “Golden Years,” when textile arts and fashion design were essential parts of the academic program.

Wendy Ponca (Osage) became the main fashion instructor at IAIA from 1983 to 1993. “As Indians,” Metcalfe quoted Ponca, “we are furthering tradition.” Ponca created body art based on Osage cosmology, almost a lost art—in the 1980s only one elder had traditional tattooing. The spider, in particular, was tattooed on the back of women’s hands. Wendy used both spider and snake imagery in fashion.

Ponca co-founded “Native Uprising,” the Native American fashion designer collective in the 1980s—featuring Ponca, Marcus American (Choctaw), Pilar Agoyo (Ohkay Owingeh), and many other talented IAIA students and alumnae. Their innovative creations forced SWAIA to create new categories in the 1990s.

Fast forward to Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo), first Native American to be featured on Project Runway. Michaels studied with Ponca at IAIA and then went on to Lloyd Kiva New’s alma mater, the Chicago Art Institute. While even today her creations are criticized for “not being ‘Indian’ enough,” she won the 2011 SWAIA Indian Market classification for textiles. Starting with plain cloth, akin to a blank canvas, Michaels hand paints designs on her fabric. Michaels keeps demolishing barriers—becoming the first Native American to participate in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.

Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo) is a fashion designer that draws inspiration from Cochiti pottery designs. These are heavily influenced by oral history, so he retells stories with his clothing design, for instance, reimagining the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Ortiz is interested in “collapsing time.” Jessica quotes him: “We must understand ourselves as embodying past, present, and future.”

Jessica Metcalfe shifted the focus of her talk to her new personal project, Beyond Buckskin, launched in 2009 with a whopping $100. With a vision statement to “empower Native artists and design,” she first started a blog to educate the public about Native fashion, sharing the history and profiling designers.

Misappropriation of traditional Indigenous aesthetics has emerged as a major focus. Paul Frank, back in September, posted a thousand photos on Facebook from their “powwow party” which featured rainbow dyed chicken feather headdresses and faux tomahawks. A flood of complaints convinced the company to pull the photos from the web in 24 hours. Metcalfe followed up with an open letter to the company addressing the racism and troubling imagery from their faux Indian party. She was shocked when the President of Paul Frank apologized, contracted her directly, and wanted to talk. After the discussions, the Paul Frank company actually agreed to collaborate with four Native American designers, and in fact, one of their representatives was in the audience. The new designs will be unveiled in August.

On May 7, 2012, Metcalfe created a boutique space. She kept encouraging people to wear clothing and accessories created by Native designers, and she was constantly asked, “Where do we buy them?” So an online boutique was the perfect mechanism to bring designers with the public. Now Beyond Buckskin showcases 30 different designers ranging from affordable street wear to high-end couture.

Just launched on March 12 in Las Vegas, Beyond Buckskin Lookbook is a landmark publication, featuring over 15 Native designers, since, as Metcalfe says, “This needs to be a movement.”

Metcalfe concludes: “Native fashion’s biggest days are yet to come.”

—America Meredith

Jessica Metcalfe’s feature article, “More Than Just a Trend: Rethinking the 'Native' in Native Fashion,” will appear in the pilot issue of First American Art Magazine.

Teri Greeves, New Mexico Art Museum

Teri Greeves addresses a packed house
Sleepy Santa Fe is waking up from its winter hibernation! Finally there’s more art shows and art talks to lure us out of our caves. The New Mexico Museum of Art is hosting Alcove Shows 12.9 as part of its annual cycle of five-artist, five-week solo exhibits, which features Kiowa–Comanche bead artist Teri Greeves, who shared a public talk about her work Friday, March 22nd.

The New Mexico Museum of Art has been a longtime supporter of Indigenous artists. By showcasing Native art in mixed shows, the museum recontextualizes the work and exposes it to new audiences.

Greeves exhibited her large–scale bead mosaics on raw silk. These simultaneously feature contemporary individuals from Kiowa society and timeless figures from Kiowa oral history, such as Spider Woman, modeled after Greeves’ own mother, who cared for the Half Boys, modeled after Greeves’ sons.

Speaking to an attentive crowd of art lovers, Greeves explained the stories behind her works and further explained how she uses the beautiful aesthetics of beadwork—the colors, the reflective qualities of light—to lure audiences in who might not be otherwise willing to learn more about Kiowa, and by extensive Indigenous, histories, that contain experiences of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

When asked why she doesn’t include facial features in her work, Greeves responded that she didn’t care her beaded faces and wanted instead to convey information through body language in her figures—a slouch, a haughty posture.

Even though beads are considered a “traditional” artform today, they were cutting edge technology introduced from Europe in past centuries. “We incorporate new technologies as soon as we’re given it,” Greeves says. “That’s survival.”

—America Meredith

Teri Greeves is represented by Jane Sauer Gallery.

For a review of “Storied Beads,” see

Look for Teri Greeves’ profile of Navajo bead artist and fashion designer Orlando Dugi in the upcoming pilot issue of First American Art Magazine.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Maria Panínguak’ Kjærulff

Selvportæ, photograph
“Versatile” is the word for Maria Panínguak` Kjærulff’s art practice. This Danish-Inuit artist played a nurse in the first feature length film produced in Greenland and acted in a daytime TV soap opera. She designed Christmas stamps and designed the set of the play “Gi Mi Tiggum” or “Give Me Chewing Gum.” In three short days, Kjærulff painted a 21-foot-long frozen shipping container. Working in collaboration with schoolchildren, Kjærulff transformed hand-painted rocks into a monumental bird effigy. In a small town in northern Finland, she created Igloo Ruin, fantasy landscape of flowers and stone.

Born in 1980 in Copenhagen, Denmark to a Greenlandic Inuit mother and a Danish father, Maria Kjærulff moved to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, when she was six years old. Her son was born there, and Nuuk remains her hometown today.

Kjærulff’s education is as eclectic as her art practice. Through a Rotary exchange program in high school, Kjærulff studied in Minnesota. After studying at the Nuuk Art School, Maria earned her BFA in 2005, from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in Halifax, Canada. In 2004, she attended the prestigious Cooper Union School of Art in New York. Kjærulff returned to New York in 2010 to participate in the International Studio and Curatorial Program.

“Painting, drawing, photography, film, video, jewellery, snow sculptures, illustration, fashion and scenography” are the media Kjærulff lists on her online portfolio. Particularly she is known for her large-scale painterly works on paper and canvas. Inspired by nature and the human form, these mixed media pieces are often highly abstracted. Kjærulff combines charcoal drawing with acrylic paints—juxtaposing greys with brilliant hues: hot pink, cherry red, ultramarine, citron. The strokes are bold and gestural, and the images crackle with energy.

Tame Turkey Running Wild, acrylic and charcoal
One such piece is Tame Turkey Running Wild, inspired by a visit to a friend’s house in Canada. The friend’s father kept turkeys in his yard, and Kjærulff writes, “I was so fascinated with them. They were stunning. Feathers organized like haute couture And one male turkey was prancing around proudly” (Kjærulff, email). Upon her return to college, she felt compelled to paint the turkeys, but none of photos she found lived up to her vision. Working from a figurine and memory, she brought the tom turkey to life. “I was in the zone,” she writes about that piece. ”Focused.”

Big White, charcoal and acrylic, 140 x 140 cm
Big White, a work in the collection of the Greenland National Museum and Archives, portrays a Greenlandic woman as part of the hunting and fishing food chain. As she bends over to butcher a seal, the woman’s body morphs into fish and seals. An ulu, the woman’s knife used throughout the Arctic, sits at the base of her spine. “Her naked breast,” writes Kjærulff, “represents passing on milk to the next generation” (Kjærulff, “Big White”).

Taking a stylistic 180-degree turn is a newer series also focused on the Inuit women. Petite watercolors feature whimsical, highly-stylized dancing women with bee-strung lips and coquettish eyelashes. Kjærulff emphasizes their uniquely Greenlandic top-knots and boots. This light-hearted style carried over to the artist’s two 2012 Post Greenland stamp designs, in which the women’s beadwork collars transformed into Christmas trees and ornaments.

Despite the lightness of these works, Maria Kjærulff is not afraid to tackle political issues. The mural
Be Cool! Be Green!, mural on frozen shipping container,
approximately 640 cm
painted on the colossal shipping container deals with global warming through the eyes of a polar bear. It’s part of Moving Art, a project of the Royal Arctic Line and KIMIK, a Greenlandic artist collective. Polar bears are native to Greenland and are depicted on the country’s coat of arms; however, in the rapidly melting ice, polar bear populations are expected to drop by two-thirds (“Climatologist Helps Predict Polar Bear Population"). The bright colors contrast the haunting image of a polar bear, flanked by ghostly ursine forms, who faces an open doorway to a blazing orange sky. The disarmingly upbeat title, Be Cool! Be Green!, puns on climate change, Greenland, and the Green Movement.

Igloo Ruin could also be seen as referencing climate change. After all, Greenland is a global hotspot for accelerating ice melt. But this work is more evocative than didactic. Kjærulff created this installation for the Art Ii Biennale of Northern Environmental and Sculpture Art. Located in the small town of Ii in northern Finland, this art fair pairs international artists with local residents to create environmentally sustainable artworks. Igloo Ruin is a “fossilized igloo with white flowers embedded in the stones, surrounded by a patch of moss and land,” writes Kjærulff (email). The wild, jagged stone outline represents “a fake land full of created memories and perceptions of what might have been in the past …. A kind of sacred memorial of something that might have been. Stories and cultures hidden in the space. Ungraspable and fragile, yet momentous and permanent.”

Maria Kjærulff’s art is evolving—growing in nuance and scope. Currently she is represented by Galleri Kalak, a gallery in Copenhagen for Greenlandic Inuit artists. Where does this artist want to take her work next? To Berlin, Germany. “I hope to go there, perhaps go on an artist residency to get the most out of the stay there,” she writes (email). “Meet artists. Be inspired.” And continue to make works that in turn inspire others.

—America Meredith

  • “Climatologist Helps Predict Polar Bear Population.” Bulletin Of The American Meteorological Society 89, no. 6 (June 2008): 784-785. Environment Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed January 16, 2013). 
  •  Kjærulff, Maria. “Big White.” Maria Greenland

Artist’s Websites

Monday, January 14, 2013

Welcome to First American Art Magazine

Live paint at Standing Buffalo Gallery, Norman, OK
Exciting, vibrant art is being created by Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas. Native peoples are curating shows and writing new art books. More tribes are opening up their own cultural centers and museums. So how does someone keep up with these changing and developments in the Native American art world?

Introducing First American Art Magazine, a publication dedicating to covering the art of Indigenous peoples of the Americas—North and South. America Meredith (Cherokee), a working artist, is publishing this magazine because of the clear need for critical, in-depth analysis of Indigenous American art, written in a way that is accessible to the general public—to both Native and non-Native communities.

FAAM will profile artists, both established and emerging. The magazine will feature art show and art book reviews by Indigenous writers. Features will cover current issues in Native artists, new discoveries in Indigenous art history, and profiles of Native arts communities—rural and urban. We’ll also showcase graphic arts, literature, news, and editorials.

Our pilot Issue No. 0 will be published in April 2013 in print and online. Issue #1 will come out this August. Our website,, is up and has a calendar of events and calls for entries. Our blog will share news, opinions, and art profiles. Through print and the web, First American Art Magazine will connect different communities—bridging the gap between academia and the general public and Native and non-Native art worlds. We will provide a platform for honest, open dialogue and in-depth analysis. FAA will discuss the human condition through the lens of Indigenous art.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Native Arts Publications Survey

If you haven't already done so, please take a brief online survey about Native art publications. We're collecting information about what people would like and would not like to see in Native art writing. Feel free to forward the survey link: to any one you think might be interested. Thanks!