May 11 - June 30, 2007
Looking Indian was a group exhibition of contemporary artwork by Oklahoma American Indians. Heather Ahtone, curator of Looking Indian, selected American Indian artists to exhibit works in a variety of media, ranging from paintings and prints to digital media and film. Ahtone sought to “recognize those Oklahoma artists whose work explores the identity and visual presentation of the contemporary American Indian” and who “contribute to a broad dialog of what Indian Oklahoma looks like.”
The exhibition was part of Untitled’s year of Oklahoma-related exhibitions in honor of Oklahoma’s State Centennial.
“Imagining that we see ‘the Indian,’ we often see little more than the distorted reflection of our own fears, fancies, and wistful longings. Meanwhile, live Indians are, in a sense, our national nightmare, figments of a guilty imagination, like Fritz Scholder’s sly portraits of flag-draped and feathered warriors, reminders of a history that we would prefer not to remember and confusing our fantasies with real-life demands.”
- Fergus M. Bordewich, Killing the White Man’s Indian
The visual image of the American Indian from the Nineteenth Century, often misinformed by the works of well meaning artists trying to record what they saw as a diminishing presence, has persisted to inform the American consciousness through stereotypes that “look” like documentary records. While American Indians, and supporters, have worked to deconstruct that image and present an alternative that is relative to our reality and personal experience, those early images have contributed to the myth of who American Indians were and, more importantly, who we are today.
Combating the stereotype with accurate images has been important for many reasons, including the need to inform our own community and to validate our experience and identity. This validation of our cultural identities becomes even more important as these many sovereign Nations become stronger political and economic forces.
In the work presented, the artists use a variety of styles and media, with the common interest in exploring the visual image of the American Indian. The “looking” referred to in the exhibit title is both the being seen and the seeing, giving viewers the opportunity to share this vision. It is my great pleasure to have assembled the artists, their work and to have been given the opportunity by Untitled [ArtSpace] to share this view.
- Heather Ahtone, Curator