Family Portrait represents blood quantum, the percentage of Indian blood, of my parents and myself. My Dad is mostly Native American and my Mom is Irish and German. Even though I am mostly "white" I still identify myself as being Native American, but why? In this piece I am exploring and questioning ideas and systems of "authenticity."
There is a great deal of stereotypical Native American imagery seen in mainstream commodity and fashion today. Much of what is represented is extremely generic, yet to the greater public, often perceived as "Authentic Indian." The imagery is utilized generally references a notion of a culture from the past, something nostalgic or prehistoric - not one that is very much alive today.
Authentic Indian Cookie Cutters
Many people assume that all Native Americans are the same, that we all wore headdresses and lived in tipis. When in reality, this is far from true. There is tremendous diversity in material culture, life ways, artistic, and cultural practices represented throughout over 500 tribal nations. These cookie cutters represent the way mainstream representations of Native American cultural icons and designs reinforce misinformed generic ideas of "Indian" or what it means to be Native.
The design down the center of this jacket represents the importance of maintaining a strong identity and cultural backbone. The wool is felted because it often feels like to be a Native person in today's world you have to have a "thick skin" in order to survive.
Native American iconography and stereotyping has made a major appearance in fashion over the past few years. The question of what is being translated appropriately has become a huge discussion. This dress is inspired by the jingle dress and exotic dance wear. The dress becomes culturally seductive touching on ideas of cultural prostitution.
The red stripes in this work represent strength and power. They are bold and present, representative of Native American culture today.
Forgiving Our Fathers
Star quilts are usually presented as gifts. In this case, I use the notion of a star quilt as a form of healing. The poem surrounding the star is from the movie Smoke Signals, "How Do We Forgive Our Fathers" written by Dick Lourie. My dad has always remained somewhat distant from those around him and I know this has affected his children. I selected images that portray my dad as a "family man" but also images of him looking out into the distance - away from his family, as if he is questioning or thinking about something else. These images are alternated to depict the way in which he was always coming in and out of our lives, never a steady figure.
Do You Know?
There are many questions that I have never asked my Dad. In many ways his life has been a mystery to me. From the simplest details about him all the way through stories of our family history, much has gone unsaid. Working on this piece has allowed me the time to process important conversations before the opportunity is past. The layering of images in this work is intended to create a feeling of nostalgia. It is an act of uncovering and discovering family stories that I have not yet heard.
The pattern in this work is inspired by traditional Plains style beadwork. The beer caps represent the association of alcoholism to Native Americans and how it has become embedded into people's perceptions of our culture and history.
This piece reflects my experience of dealing with depression and anxiety since losing my Dad. Grief is a highly personal experience in that every individual’s process in unique. The woven image is composed of two self portraits; by weaving these photographs together the two images become distorted in order to demonstrate a heightened experience of hysteria and anxiety, overwhelming the viewer.