April 18, 2008

Walrus stomachs and porcupine quills

Native Anew

Contemporary Indian works get the spotlight in an enormous show at the Tucson Museum of Art"Guarded Secrets," 2005, is a collection of tubular stomach parts, bristling with sharp quills. Shaded in delicate ambers and coppers, with sharp black tips topping the white quills, it's piled on a pedestal in Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation, the enormous show of contemporary Northwest and Pacific Indian works at the Tucson Museum of Art.

The piece embodies numerous influences all at once. An Arizonan might be inclined to see it as an assemblage of prickly cactus parts, alluding to the artist's years in the desert, and serving, maybe, as a metaphor of psychic alienation. A Native Alaskan might meditate on the place of the walrus and the porcupine in traditional life. And an urban hipster will relish the artist's daring to declare these animal parts to be art.

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