Pop art, Native style, at All My Relations

Stereotype: The Barrymore, by Cannupa Hanska
Stereotype: The Barrymore, by Cannupa Hanska
"Make it Pop," currently on view at All My Relations Gallery, explores pop culture in relation to the American Indian experience of 12 Native artists working in a variety of mediums. The show consists of both political statements about appropriation of Native culture by mainstream celebrities and corporations, as well personal reflections of the ways mainstream influences work in tandem with one's personal identity. 
Cultured by Rose B. Simpson
Cultured by Rose B. Simpson

About half of the work in this exhibit carries on a conversation that's been very active in the media and the blogosphere lately about appropriation of Native culture. From Gwen Stefani's controversial music video where she dressed as a stereotypical Native woman, to the backlash against Victoria Secret for using a headdress as part of a fashion show, to Urban Outfitter's use of "Indian chic," it seems people just aren't getting the message that no, it's not okay to regurgitate stereotypical imagery. 

The work of Frank Buffalo Hyde speaks to this issue. His acrylic paintings show examples of this kind of appropriation from the likes of Stefani and Snoop Dog. He appropriately names the work In-Appropriate (1-3). Similarly, Cannupa Hanska creates a series of sculptural works that criticize the constant stream of these images in the media in Stereotype: The Barrymore, Stereotype: The Stefani, and Stereotype: The Curtis (based on Edward Curtis, the enthnographer and photographer from the 19th century who photographed Native people using props that he provided himself). Hanska and Buffalo Hyde both use a lot of colors in their work, as well as a tongue-in-cheek playfulness, so while there's a definite message, the satire comes across as well. 

By Doug Miles 
By Doug Miles 

There's also work in this exhibition that isn't so much carrying a political message, but rather explores the artists personal identity through the various influences of both pop culture and Native heritage. Doug Miles, for example, depicts contemporary images of Apache people, drawing from skateboard art and graffiti-type imagery. His figures wear tattoos, skeleton T-shirts that say "love hurts," sling guns, and are bad asses in general. 

Rose Simpson has created a mixed-media triptych, Cultured, incorporating images of rapper Eve, actress Selma Hayek as Frida Kahlo, and Love and Rockets artist Jaime Hernandez. "I would like to believe that I am an independent person free from sway, pull, or inspiration from without," she writes. "However, I believe culture is an experience that creates a sense of identity. Therefore, what we are exposed to, we tend to become. We observe, we react, and we reconnect." Simpson's very honest statement, and her work make the argument that drawing from influences -- even from Hollywood -- isn't always a bad thing. 

Jason Garcia's Caramel Macchiato Dreams uses traditional clay, mineral pigments, and Pueblo outdoor firing methods to depict a young Pueblo girl who dreams of Starbucks coffee. The work addresses the corporate influences and the struggle to maintain traditional culture, and at the same time pokes fun of the notion that Native people are somehow stuck in time. 

Caramel Macchiato Dreams by Jason Garcia 
Caramel Macchiato Dreams by Jason Garcia 

Then there's Pat Pruitt's Wampum Belt, made of stainless steel, Precision Casino Dice, and $100 casino chips (there's also an accompanying Hot Red Flame Bracelet). Wampum are traditional sacred shell beads of the Eastern Woodlands tribes, which were used as trade items, and later as currency when the Europeans arrived. Pruitt, who has Laguna Pueblo, Chirachaua Apache, and Caucasian heritage, makes a play on the idea of Wampum currency by incorporating casino paraphernalia. While the materials are contemporary, Pruitt employs a traditional aesthetic of the wampum belts, which were used in oral traditions.

As a whole, the exhibit offers lots to think about, as well as excellently executed artwork.


"Make It Pop"
Through May 4
All My Relations Gallery
1414 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday

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All My Relations Gallery

1414 E. Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55404


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