I saw a local school selling T-shirts for a fundraiser. They had the women’s sample on the wall with a sign noting that the men’s shirt was the same design but without a flower on the logo. This was a logo featuring the name of the school on the upper left of the chest and for the women a single ornamental flower. I wonder why there was a need to create two different logos, one sans flower for the men. It is a small flower, nothing Georgia O’Keeffe or anything like that. The assumption must be that men do not want any flowers on their shirts (Hawaiian shirts being an exception) and that for fundraising purposes they need a flower free shirt. Now that I think of it, as a man, I do not own any T-shirts that have flowers anywhere on them (although I recall one that I owned about 20 years ago). That is not to say that I would be adverse to a T-shirt with a flower, but it seems I have been just following societal convention without knowing it. I guess the school was onto something.
According to my count, of the 100 statues in National Statuary Hall the racial breakdown of the individuals portrayed is as follows:
5 Native American
1 Pacific Islander
These numbers make the addition of Frederick Douglass even more essential as he is the first black individual portrayed in this national collection.
I would say that the lack of diversity is a result of the fact the installation of statues was authorized in 1864, but it took a long time for all the states to provide the statues with some still not there in the early 90s (Wikipedia). I would have thought that by that time at least one state would have had a black citizen to honor.
Given the politics that would be involved in any state replacing a statue at this point, I think the collection will likely remain with its current mix of individuals. The only hope might be if the territories get to add statues. My old home island of Guam could provide some variety. Consider the individual sculpted below.
By the way, there are 92 men and 8 women in the hall, something else on which to work.
A statue of Frederick Douglass will be placed in the National Statuary Hall in the US Capitol. There are two statues from each state, statues of famous individuals chosen to represent the state. Now, after much controversy, Washington DC gets one statue and it will be of Douglass.
I like this move not just out of sympathy for my DC dwelling sibling, but from the perspective of diversifying this national collection. Looking at the list on Wikipedia, I see some diversity, particularly the occasional Native American or Indigenous Hawaiian, but it seems to be a fairly white collection. Douglass certainly would represent an underrepresented constituency. Besides, since pro-slavery lawmaker John C. Calhoun is there from South Carolina, it’s great to have this famous abolitionist in the building. Could they by any chance put the two next to each other?
Take this painting of a female slave…
and superimpose Michelle Obama’s face on it while adding an American flag
and one gets the cover of a recent Spanish magazine. I cannot begin to speculate on the cross-cultural significance here, but from an American perspective mixing slavery and Michelle Obama is quite the controversial mix.
Here is the detail from NewsOne:
“The August 2012 issue of Magazine Fuera de Serie, a supplement to Spanish newspaper Expansion, features a cover image guaranteed to turn heads. First Lady Michelle Obama’s face (pictured) is superimposed over an 1800 female slave painting by French artist Marie-Guilhelmine Benoist. Seated on a chair covered with the American Flag, right breast exposed, and wearing an Aunt Jemina headscarf, the image is part of a feature article examining Mrs. Obama’s popularity among the American public.
“…Behind every great man there is a great woman [which best] describes the Obama marriage. In the shadow of the U.S. President is a person whose popularity ratings exceed those of Barack’s own. This person is none other than his wife Michelle,” reads the roughly translated description for “Michelle Tataranieta De Esclava, Dueña De América” (Michelle, Granddaughter Of A Slave. Lady Of America).”
I read protests recently on Native Appropriations’ Facebook page over the use of a totem pole from Stanley Park in Vancouver in a liquor store logo.
This image brings to mind the question of public vs. private art. Lou-ann Ika’wega Neel a descendant of the the artist who created the totem pole writes:
“My great-grandfather, Charlie Yakudlas James, carved a totem pole that has stood in Stanley Park for many years. It is the most photographed and replicated totem pole of the collection. The images on this pole belong to our family, our tribe, our people; they have great meaning and significance to our cultural and spiritual ways. Over the years, this pole has been replicated into everything from cheap plastic souvenirs to a central figure in shaping BC and the ‘Pacific Northwest Coast’ in terms of tourism marketing and branding. It’s always bothered me that this image that comes from our family is being used for individual and corporate gain. And when I saw this today I was absolutely outraged!
Our family’s crests are NOT to be used to promote a product that is completely contradictory to everything the pole represents!
I will be sending a letter to the owners of this liquor store to ask them to stop using this image.”
I sympathize with her distress, but from the outside I wonder about the fact the pole is in a public park. When art is put in a public park, do not images of that art become part of the public domain? There is a statue called the “Free Stamp” in Cleveland. If someone opened “Free Stamp Liquor” I doubt the artists’ families would complain or that their complaints would be taken serious. The art is in the public domain. The same principles apply were Grant Wood’s family to complain about misappropriations of “American Gothic.” In this case though, the pole has religious and familial significance so its commercialization is particularly off-putting. I would think it would all come down to original intent–whether the original carver carved the piece as a public work, or as a private work (with it later being moved to a park).
Great lecture by Rayna Green at Dartmouth on Native American imagery. It is longer than the average clip or blog post, but worth viewing.
This artistic, powerful video inspires me when I watch it. The moves are great, especially what he does with the crutches. The way he uses the crutches as part of his performance really says a lot about taking a supposed disability and making into an opportunity for art and life.
A website I enjoy reading Native Appropriations posted a link to this crafts and party site where the proprietor celebrates a “Pow Wow Party” she created. Native Appropriations called it a “ridiculously racist kid’s party.” Looking at the pictures I see an insensitive, inauthentic mishmash of Native American cultures from tepees, to headdresses, to Indian corn, to moccasins, to totem poles, to a drum, to feathers. Thus, adding in the cacti, nations from the plains, to the southwest, to the northwest, to the east coast are represented. For the children attending the party, they would likely get a rather broad, inaccurate sense of what it means to be Native American, and they might take away or have reinforced certain stereotypes. However, especially after reading the creator’s apology in the comments, I tend toward a gentler critique than Native Appropriation offers. Certainly a focus on a single nation would help as would an educational component, but this party seems to be just an overdone attempt at thematic cuteness, not a deliberate affront. I am more concerned with Chief Wahoo than with tepees made out of coated sugar cones. After all, I grew up in a mostly white suburban environment and was a part of the Indian Guides program. I was not permanently scarred, enjoyed the time with my dad, and am now trying to be good, aware white liberal.
Sweden’s Minister of Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth cut a cake. The cake was in the form of an African woman’s torso. The interior of the cake was blood red. At the top of the torso was a human head, the head of the artist, protruding through the table. The artist was made up in blackface with exaggerated features. When the cake was cut the artist/head moaned with mock pain. The cake was cut at the bottom of the torso. This installation was designed as an artistic commentary on female circumcision.
The video disturbed me when I watched and listened to it. Then again, art is not necessarily supposed to be comforting, and in fact may be best when it is disturbing. Thus, I give the artist credit for being an effective provocateur and drawing attention to an issue. However, the representation of the female body, the stereotypical exaggerated features easily lead to accusations of racism, dehumanization and at the least dehumanization.
From an American perspective, what stuns me is that there was a government official there posing for photos of the cake cutting. I cannot imagine a politician getting anywhere near such an event here unless they were courting a particularly marginal section of the voting populace.
Just saw for a first time the Edmonia Lewis sculpture “Indian Combat.” It’s a really impressive work. The dynamic action calls for the view to circle the sculpture taking in all the details. The textures of different skins she recreates contrast beautifully against the smoothness of the marble. I am glad I took a break from spring cleaning, to go down and take a look at this recently acquired work and other old favorites. It is worth noting that this piece is in the center of a room next to a room featuring the paintings by Thomas Cole and similar artists who place minuscule Indian figures in the corners of huge landscapes. I have been interested in Lewis since a student wrote a research paper on her work and I read about her amazing back story involving multiracial identity, charges of poisoning a roommate at Oberlin, and establishment as an expatriate artist in Rome.