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Maybe You Can Go Back Again…

March 1, 2013

Things have a really funny way of working. My life just came around full circle, when I had the opportunity to speak at Colorado State University (CSU) in February. As an alumnus, I was honored. As a former student, I vividly remember what it was like the first time I saw a guest lecture at CSU. I thought to myself, “I want to do that!” My mind was opened in a way it hadn’t been before and I walked through the opening. Twenty years later, I have a PhD and I’m the invited lecturer speaking at my Alma Mater.

I was very humbled when three of my former professors came to hear me speak, braving a blizzard and black ice. Two of them are retired now and one is over 80 (at best guess). It really made me feel good to lecture to them and made me realize how lucky I have been to have the inspiring instructors and great mentors that I have had.

It was because of one of these instructors, that I was invited to co-curate the “That’s Not Me” exhibition and speak at the opening for the Duhesa Lounge at Colorado State University. They wanted to create an exhibit on Native American stereotypes and artists that refute those stereotypes. So, my former professor contacted me. Since this is a particular area of interest and a specialty of mine, I was asked to be involved in selecting the objects, selecting the artists, and writing the label and exhibit collateral materials.

The exhibit has two distinct parts; it contains culturally appropriated and stereotypical objects and the work of five contemporary artists whose work questions these stereotypes. The objects were situated in one case with significant label text for context. We also included QR codes, so that viewers could scan the code and be taken to a website with even more information. However, the larger part of the exhibit displayed the works from the following artists: America Meredith, Jacob Meders, Jamison Chas Banks, Ryan Singer and Ryan Huna Smith.

In addition to curating the exhibition, CSU invited me and two of the artists to speak on campus. I presented a lecture on stereotypes and cultural appropriation. The two artists gave a brief overview of their work, and then I moderated a question and answer period from the audience. There was a good turnout for the event and the audience contained students, professors, former professors and the general public. A nice reception in the exhibition hall followed the lecture and Q&A session.

America Meredith showed a selection of her works, both older and newer. But I was most struck by her extension of the discussion of stereotypical misrepresentations of American Indians as an expression of power. Jacob Meders also spoke. He showed examples of his work, which in many ways, is one of the most direct responses to historic stereotypical imagery than the others in the show. The critique he exercises in his work is both stylistic and technical. Not only does he create referential images, he uses the historic printing techniques.

Thank you to CSU for providing us this opportunity. I’d like to especially thank Dr. Peter Jacobs, Dr. William Griswold, Dr. Irene Vernon, Doug Sink, and Ty Smith. But most of all, thanks to the artists who inspire my work—America, Jacob, Jamison, Ryan and Ryan—without your work, the world would be a much duller place!