I'm in the new exhibition, "Picturing the People" at the Autry National Center in LA that opened last week. The exhibition runs from September 7th to January 27th, and I hope you're able to stop by and take a look at the work. You've always wanted to go to LA to see the movie stars, right? Stop by the place that is dedicated to the American West. How can it be wrong if it was started by America's favorite cowboy?
What makes this exhibition a bit ironic and fun is that it is a collaborative effort by both the Autry Center and a group of Indigenous Photographers who wanted to transform how the viewer thinks of the American West, Cowboys and Indians. In this sense, it is full of mythical perceptions of both theirs and ours, so as a result, it is more of a collective statement about American Identity, not just the Indigenous people of America. It includes a multitude of stories about the American West from the point of view of the people who have been there for over 10,000 years, plus photographs by what I call old farts from the pioneer clan. Just kidding. Maybe not. It's the old point of view of White photographers photographing Native Americans. It's kind of a goofy cobwebby point of view that has all the usual stale stereotpyical points of view, but does include some good stuff too.
See the above September 17th post for a clearer idea of the visual dynamic and photographic history that I'm referring to.
I myself was inspired to make a piece titled "Tonto's TV Script Revision" in which the script includes a closing scene where Tonto is seen gently chiding the lone ranger for wearing baby blue tights, much in the style of a cowboy superman, instead of pants, and says with a chuckle that maybe the authoritative black leather thing is a bit much. The lone ranger just smiles sheepishly and blushes as the scene fades to black… (an excerpt from my chapter in a book to be published next year titled Visual Currencies).
Tonto and the lone ranger have switched roles in my version and Tonto is the hero with the lone ranger as his trusty companion. All of a sudden the lone ranger can't understand most of Tonto's new big words, but is content to just follow his lead, because he knows in his heart that Tonto will always be a doer of good deeds, defending the helpless and bringing the bad guys to justice.
In this TV Scene, we have Tonto bringing the criminal Richard Pratt to justice. Richard Pratt had the bright idea to start the Indian Boarding Schools back in the 1870's and his philosophy was to "kill the Indian and save the man," with his new Carlisle Indian School. His school was a model of brutality and abuse towards innocent Native children that many other Indian Boarding Schools followed. He was a bad guy.
Anyway, in my scene, I have Tonto roughly washing Pratt's face in a jail with an audience of cowboy deputies. Pratt was finally brought to justice for his crimes against humanity as the lone ranger looks on in astonishment. I have a number of portraits of Native children on the wall, bearing witness as they say. Edward Curtis is also under arrest for his crime of trying to make the idea of genocide pretty with his Vanishing Race crap. The whole thing is a bit silly, but what the heck. It's what a sassy Indian kid would think up while watching cowboy movies with his friends. They're all hootin' and hollerin' at the bad guys, which is what this is all about when you get right down to it. Tonto quietly brings the bad guys to jail in my stories, which is why it's cool to have my work in an institution dedicated to figuring out what the American West is all about.
Oh yeah, and what's with wearing your mom's hat all the time Curtis? That's ok, you just stand out a bit is all. Does this have anything to do with you not making any photos in our Chilkat country of the Northern Tlingit where even our revered Aunties are fierce warriors?
I'm in stellar company with other Indigenous Photographers such as Hulleah Tsihnahjinnie, who helped make the exhibition a reality, Will Wilson who teaches Photography at the University of Arizona at Tucson, Dugan Aguilar, Pena Bonita, Teo Chambi, Rosalie Favell, Shan Goshorn, Zig Jackson, Erica Lord, the Great Lee Marmon, the Stellar Shelley Niro, and so on. There are many others, whom came into this exhibition from another titled "Our People, Our Land, Our Images" that Hulleah sponsored with Veronica Passalacqua at the C.N. Gorman Museum at UC Davis in 2006. It was in conjunction with a Conference of Indigenous Photographers.
Here's one'a my pieces that the Autry Center has been using for their ads and stuff. It is from the "Raven Asks Pontiac" series and is titled, Y'eil, which is the Tlingit word for Raven (the trickster). What'cha y'all waitin' fer partners? Mosey on over to the corral and take a peek (thanks for the snapshot Veronica!).
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Posted by Larry McNeil at 10:07 PM