“While cultures are obviously unique there are similarities between living in a dominate society that has one view and having a different world view,” Ahtone said. “Even if those other world views are not compatible there are similar experiences of that.”
Many images explore the idea of dual identity and how native peoples around the world handle stereotypes in their way of living or dress, Ahtone said.
“A lot of time people are looking to indigenous people, and including Native American people, in that maybe a particular look is going to tell you who that person is,” she said. “... I think that’s one of the things about identity that this exhibition kind of gets to is, it’s no longer that phenotypic manner of identifying people but it’s also the ways that they might seek to create visual signals of who they are.”
One historical image shows a group of Native American women dressed in the contemporary clothing of 1902. Ahtone said the photograph starts a difficult conversation about visual cues related to Native Americans — there’s no visual references to clue the viewer in that they’re looking at Native Americans, but does that make them any less Native American? As Ahtone asked, can we allow people culturally to be something that evolves without needing to look a certain way?
“I think we can see that was already a question that could be raised 100 years ago,” Ahtone said. “Why are we still dealing with the same d*** question?”
“Our People, Our Land, Our Images” is on display April 4 to May 25 at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 555 Elm Ave.
One of the artists included in the exhibit, Shan Goshorn, Native American artist and activist from Tulsa, will be giving a gallery talk 6:30 p.m. April 11 at the museum.
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