'Dimensions of Indigenous' at Intermedia Arts

The Master's Tongue, by Pritika Chowdhry
The Master's Tongue, by Pritika Chowdhry

The latest visual-arts offering at Intermedia Arts, "Dimensions of Indigenous," explores what it means to be indigenous and the impact of colonization. Curated by Sarah Sarzoza and Rebekah Crisanta, the exhibit features pieces from local American Indian artists as well as other indigenous groups, and offers a lively dialogue through some excellent artwork.

Most notable in the exhibition is the work of Bobby Wilson, whose numerous pieces demonstrate the versatility and spirit of the artist. Waci Wicasta is a drum made from elk, bison, mixed gauche with ink, and spray paint that juxtaposes the traditional with contemporary. Painted on the piece are crisscrossed lines, creating triangles, with images of an elder, graffiti, and a person making a peace sign. The work speaks to the importance of tradition, even as the artist embraces contemporary forms.
Lift Off by Bobby Wilson
Lift Off by Bobby Wilson

Also by Wilson are two acrylic on canvas paintings that explore the issue and/or stereotype of alcohol within the Native community. In Lift Off, he paints a champagne bottle shooting out a caricatured image of an American Indian figure, complete with headdress, moccasins, a missing tooth, and an oversized belly. The similarly themed Pejuta Sica is a painting of a bottle that proclaims on the label "Bad Medicine Fool" and "High as Hell Yo." Both of the pieces demonstrate a biting satire in that they are both playful and deeply critical of mainstream society's view of American Indians.

Gordon Coons also has a couple pieces in the show, the most devastating of which is New World Scream. This linoleum black print, made with oil inks, has as its centerpiece a take-off of Edvard Munch's Scream. The main figure holds the same pose as the original, only he is of uniform brown color, with single strands of hair raised above his head. Surrounding the screaming figure are medical figures on horses, and ships with red crosses coming toward him. Coons seems to be making a comment on the diseases that Europeans brought with them to the new world that wiped out so many American Indian people. 
New World Scream by Gordon Coons
New World Scream by Gordon Coons

Pritika Chowdhry presents another interesting piece, called The Master's Tongues, made up of many tongue cast-iron tongue sculptures laid out on a platform. In her artist notes, Chowdhry speaks about how she was exploring the idea of re-appropriating language as a means for immigrants and colonized people to reclaim power. The rust that accumulates on the tongues symbolizes dialects and the subtle ways communities have of making the "mother tongue" their own. It's a smart piece, and even if you didn't read what Chowdhry had intended, the work has an aesthetic gravity to it regardless, especially in combination with the unsettling title. 
Assimilation Dress by Laura "Heit" Youngbird
Assimilation Dress by Laura "Heit" Youngbird

Another notable artist in the show is Laura (Heit) Youngbird. She has a transfixing mixed media piece called Buried "A-"C" is for Columbus that illuminates through words and images the atrocities that have come to indigenous people since the explorer landed. In Assimilation Dress, she divides the dress into two halves. On the top is the word "assimilation" repeated over and over, while on the bottom is a skirt made from burlap. The piece signifies two dueling identities, and the effect is poignant.

In all, the show displays a great range of voices, both from experienced artists and students, and offers a lot to think about in terms of how colonization affects everyone.


"Dimensions of Indigenous"
Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Through January 14

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