Oklahoma is home to 39 federally recognized tribes, many of which relocated to the state after being forcibly displaced from other parts of the U.S. during a time when part of the state was known as "Indian Country."
The artwork reflects the ramifications of that past, illustrating the ways in which the artists grapple with historical trauma in contemporary society. The artists take on modern-day conflicts that derive from historical wrongs, such as how American Indian of today, especially those with mixed heritage, find their identity. A few of the pieces reference current conflicts going on within Cherokee and other tribes about how to determine who is an official member and who isn't.
One particularly powerful piece, Diluted by Shan Goshorn, is made of seven sheets of paper containing lists of names. The left-most sheet is washed with a deep red, and the subsequent papers have gradually more diluted red washes. Goshorn seems to be making a statement about the U.S. practice of "blood quantums" (the degree of Native ancestry a person has), which at first was used to restrict the civil rights of American Indians, and later was employed as a ways to distribute financial benefits or for sales of land involving tribal members.
Goshorn has another piece in the show, titled Tarnished
, featuring a small basket made in the traditional Cherokee double-weave style that incorporates shredded pieces of paper with words from a government document. Though the title doesn't suggest what document has been used (a broken treaty, perhaps?), the piece represents all of the lies and shattered promises made to Native tribes by the United States. Goshorn's use of traditional basket weaving enfolds, literally, the actions of the government into Native history.
A sculpture by Troy Jackson, made of clay, copper bondo, and acrylic, portrays an American Indian figure, his body covered in symbols, on his knees and blindfolded. He holds up a clear white ball in one hand, and a red one by his thigh. There's a white cross hung from the pedastal. The title reads: "