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Charlotte Townsend-Gault

(b Upsala, Ontario, March 22, 1960).

Native American, Canadian installation and performance artist of Anishinabe descent. She attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto (1984–6), emerging among newly visible and influential First Nations figures in the arts in Canada whose work focused on the social, political and historical issues associated with their ethnic identity. The period was marked by the acknowledgement of aboriginal rights in the amended 1982 Canadian Constitution and by confrontations, sometimes violent, between indigenous people and the authorities over the nature and extent of those rights. Outrage at the tragic consequences of the historical marginalisation of native people and determination to recover their voice has always informed Belmore’s work. In the iconic Talking to their Mother (1991), which brought her wide attention, she travelled to Native American communities with an enormous, finely crafted wooden megaphone, literally giving people a voice with which to speak to their land....

Article

Jenifer P. Borum

(b Dallas, GA, Oct 11, 1928; d Alcoa, TN, Aug 12, 1994).

Sculptor of African American and Native American heritage. Born to Homer and Rosie Mae White, Bessie Ruth White was the seventh of 13 children. She married Charles Harvey at age 14, and moved with him to Buena Vista, GA. She later separated from Harvey and moved to Alcoa, TN, where she settled and raised 11 children as a single mother.

Throughout most of her adult life, Harvey experienced visions that did not engage the dogma of her Christian faith, but rather revealed a powerful divine presence in nature. After the death of her mother in 1974, she began to see faces in the dead branches and roots found in the woods near her home in Aloca, and believed them to be animated by spirits. By adorning these roots and branches with paint, costume jewelry and found materials, Harvey revealed the identity of the spirits locked therein—some Biblical and some lost African ancestors. She understood her role as that of a conduit for divine intelligence, claiming “God is the artist in my work.”...

Article

G. Lola Worthington

(b Wichita, KS, Nov 22, 1954).

Native American (Cheyenne–Arapaho) conceptual and performance artist. Creating ethnic commentary with introspective perceptions and communiqués of contemporary indigenous political frames of context, Heap of Birds demonstrated his analysis of colonized relationships and their aftermath. In his works unspoken rules and relationships between Native Americans and colonizers are deliberately provoked and questioned (see, for example, Day/Night, 1991). He candidly confronts stereotypes and the essential meaning of “Native” identity in legal and colonialist terms.

He earned his BFA at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS (1976), and afterwards studied at the Royal College of Art, London (1976–7). In 1979, the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA awarded him an MFA. Early works combined his enthusiasm for juxtaposed graphic images with text on sheet metal. Combining visual and linguistical representations, he offered fresh and provoking political commentary. His works were temporary and retained by a series of noted photographs taken during the performance event. He voiced questions between Native Americans and non-Native Americans about the precarious relationships of ethnic perception in modern day America....

Article

Clint Burnham

(b Fort St John, BC, April 29, 1970).

First Nations (aboriginal) sculptor. Jungen’s work uses consumer products refashioned into sculptures and installations that comment on the relationships between native design, commodity production, and popular culture. Born of a Dunne-za mother and Swiss father, he attended the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver in the early 1990s, there coming into contact with the artist-run centre scene that became an important part of his creative milieu.

Jungen’s first series of works that attracted international attention was the Prototype for New Understanding (1999–2005; see Prototype for New Understanding #23, 2005), 23 sculptures for which he cut up Nike Air Jordan sneakers and made them into simulacra of West Coast tribal masks and displayed them in vitrines. The importance of this series is manifold: it references youth culture of the 1980s and 1990s with its fixation on expensive sportswear and the signifiers of hiphop; it connects that commodification to the trade in tribal masks over the previous century, a trade that saw native carvers in the Pacific Northwest making masks for a global collecting and museum market; and, finally, it relates design elements of the Nike sneakers—not only the trademark ‘swoosh’ but also the eyelets, soles, and the colour schemes—to traditional native carving practice. So the Nike swoosh becomes part of an ovoid (the signature graphic feature of Haida—Northwest Coast—art), or, the top of the sneaker becomes a mouth, as seen in ...

Article

Celia Stahr

(b Phoenix, AZ, Aug 26, 1954).

Native American (Seminole–Muskogee–Diné (Navajo)) photographer, video and installation artist . While living on a Navajo reservation in the 1960s, Tsinhnahjinnie was prompted to think about the power of images after looking at A House of Human Bondage, which showed the poor living conditions that black South Africans were subjected to under the apartheid system, photographs that reminded her of the bleak existence of Native Americans. This led her to attend the Institute of American Indian Art from 1975 to 1978. She received a BFA from the California College of the Arts (1981) and an MFA from the University of California, Irvine (2002). She went on to teach at the University of California, Davis.

Realizing that Native Americans had been defined by photographs taken by non-Natives, Tsinhnahjinnie wanted to create photographs of Native Americans from an insider’s perspective; to reclaim her own culture, history and identity. In 1988...