Installing “I.M.N.D.N” with curator Todd Clark

The newest Art Gym exhibition focuses on the world Native artists see

Rick Bartow, "From Nothing Coyote Creates Himself," 2004

Rick Bartow, “From Nothing Coyote Creates Himself,” 2004

I arrived at the Art Gym on the afternoon of the morning that 50 delicate porcelain arrows made by Nicholas Galanin had arrived from a museum in Montreal. This was a problem: All 50 were supposed to hang in a curve from the high ceiling of the Art Gym above the exhibition area for “I.M.N.D.N.—Native Art for the the 21st Century,” and the show was opening on Sunday.

As I walked in curator Todd Clark was holding a slim, two-foot length of wood as a stand-in for the arrows, just making sure how they’d line up and hang before committing the porcelain to the heights. The 50 arrows were arranged on a long table, white with a blue pattern on them, like an old Victorian wallpaper design. The metaphor was complicated: beneath the colonial trappings, the tribal arrow survived; on the other hand, it had become very breakable. “The warrior in the colonial condition,” as Clark describes it.

Not all the objects are quite that symbolic, at least on the face of it. Wendy Red Star, a Portland artist, offers a little room full of book covers that she’s collected from the “White Squaw” pornographic novel series and reentered photographically. That’s Red Star herself playing the “White Squaw” making faces both fearful and lascivious. Otherwise the titles and subtitles are the same. In White Squaw #19, “Badman’s Climax: She licks her enemies at their own game,” Red Star closes her made-up eyes as she starts to place a big spoonful of Land O’ Lakes butter in her mouth between her fire engine red lipsticked lips. So, yes, a send-up, though once you start pulling those covers apart a little bit, both individually and as a set of 25(!), maybe you’ll be led down some serious lines of thought.


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