Above, “Christmas in the iglu” by Elisapee Ishulutak. (Artwork courtsey of Uqqurmiut, via Nunatsiaq News.
Sometimes we feel that Buffalo Post could be a blog solely about art, so many are the supremely gifted people about whom we write. Painters and sculptors, jewelers and quilters, writers and musicians and filmmakers – all entranced us this year. Here are just a few:
Brian Jungen‘s art is not only beautiful and impressive, it’s also a lot of fun. He uses a lot of modern materials – sneakers, anyone? – in contemporary sculptures that reference Native traditions. “Native cultures are living, and shouldn’t be in the Museum of Natural History. . . . It’s good for people to realize native art isn’t just beads and carving,” says Jungen, of the Dunne-za First Nation in British Columbia. Jungen was the first living artist to be featured in a solo show at the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. His work has also been featured in London’s Tate Modern and New York’s New Museum as well as the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
You’d think it would be enough that at the age of 25, Josh Marceau‘s photo already hangs on the Wall of Fame in the Native American Research Lab at the University of Montana. Marceau is a doctoral student at UM, pursuing his degree in biomedical science. But he’s also a talented jeweler, and says the two pursuits actually dovetail nicely.
Writer Sherman Alexie
seems to be on track to surpass Joyce Carol Oates in terms of productivity. Alexie makes us a little grumpy because he writes superbly in too many genres – adult fiction, young-adult fiction and poety – but we’ve got to get over that because he’s just so good. Besides, he’s passionate on the subject of reading and books: “I think white folks should be ashamed that it’s taking an Indian to save part of their culture,” he says. Alexie’s got a new book, “War Dances,” and of course he won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for his young-adult novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” It’s not as though his success comes from bending over backward to please everyone: “If you’re not offending a pretty high percentage of people who read your books, you’re not doing it well enough. … At my public performances, if somebody doesn’t walk out at some point I feel like I haven’t done my job.”
Jereldine Redcorn had already received multiple honors for her pottery, for which she mastered ancient Caddo techniques, although using them sometimes in modern designs. This year, she has one more kudo – First Lady Michelle Obama selected one of Redcorn’s works, “Intertwining Scrolls,” to decorate the White House. Her work is included with pieces by internationally renowned artists such as painters Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns, and ceramic artist Maria Montoya Martinez of the San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico. “Life and unity are universal and timeless,” Redcorn says.
The film, “The Only Good Indian,”
swept the American Indian Film Festival this year. University of Kansas faculty member Kevin Wilmott won best director, and actors Wes Studi and Winter Fox Frank won best actor and best supporting actor, respectively. The film was based on a script written by KU alumnus Thomas L. Carmody and “The Only Good Indian” was inspired by the early history of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence. It recounts the story of a Kickapoo boy forcibly taken from his family – yes, that would be kidnapping – and sent to boarding school. He later escapes, but is tracked by a bounty hunter – who is Cherokee. Those two are, in turn, pursued by an Indian sheriff. Many of the cast and crew are from the University of Kansas, Haskell, and the nearby Kickapoo Indian Reservation.
And speaking of movies, “New Moon,” the second movie in the “Twlight” teen vampire series got buzz and more buzz for the number of hunky young Native actors taking roles of Quileute tribal members who – in the books and movies – also turn into werewolves.
We could go on – and on and on. There’s Henry Real Bird, Montana’s new poet laureate; poet Joy Harjo; painter Joe Yazzie; basketmaker Julia Parker; quilter Almira Buffalo Bone Jackson – you get the, ahem, picture. We love reading about their work and hope you do, too.
Tags: "Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian", "New Moon", "The Only Good Indian", "Twlight", "War Dances", American Indian Film Festival, Brian Jungen, Caddo, Dunne-za First Nation, Haskell Indian Nations University, Henry Real Bird, Jereldine Redcorn, Joe Yazzie, Josh Marceau, Joy Harjo, Julia Parker, Kevin Wilmott, Kickapoo, Maria Montoya Martinez, Michelle Obama, Museum of the American Indian, National Book Award, Quileute Nation, Sherman Alexie, University of Montana, Wes Studi, White House, Winter Fox Frank