My name is Mark Anquoe and I am a Kiowa Indian currently living in San Francisco. I follow your blog and enjoy your cultural/visual criticism.
There is currently an art installation at the beach here in San Francisco by this rather obnoxious white artist. I'm organizing some people to have an Indian presence at this art installation this weekend and I'm writing up some materials to facilitate communication with the predominantly white and Asian onlookers this weekend. If you had a minute to spare, I'd like to ask your opinion of this installation and this artist.
SFGate news article about the installation:
Wild West tribute at Ocean Beach
The artist's website:
Thom Ross Art
A forum topic/discussion I have started on Indianz.com, with additional information (my handle is gazelbe):
Custer fan celebrates Indian minstrel shows in SF
I'd be curious to hear anything you had to say on the subject.
Anyway, thanks for your time and I really enjoy your work.
Without more information, it seems like more of a celebration than a critique. The bits about the show being a "valentine" and Ross's Vandyke beard only reinforce the feeling. Ross may fancy himself a modern-day showman who's following in Buffalo Bill's footsteps.
More on Ross's approach
At Indianz.com, Mark Anquoe adds some details not evident in the SF Gate blurb:
The "artist" dresses up as Buffalo Bill and tells people about the savage Indians' love of scalping white women, he talks about how Custer wasn't that bad a guy and that Geronimo fled the reservation because he wasn't allowed to beat his wife.
And what's with the bit about putting your face in a cutout and "becoming" an Indian? Is this supposed to be an example of Ross's artistry? It sounds like something you'd do at a carnival or circus sideshow, not in a work of art. I.e., like something people did at the original Wild West shows.
Tired of clichéd images?
In Thom Ross, Western Artist, Ross says he gets "so tired of the clichéd images in Western art." Because of this, he duplicated the clichéd images in an old photo of a Wild West show? Images that were clichéd at least a decade before the 1902 photo date?
Cutouts of Plains Indians chiefs and braves...gee, thanks, Thom. Thanks for your refreshing display of novel Indian images. Not.
I'd be impressed if you put up cutouts of Indians playing ping pong, croquet, or poker. I'm not impressed with your regurgitation of the images you supposedly disdain. Can you say "hypocritical"?
A real artist would use the opportunity to say something critical about the past, since it deserves criticizing. Put Buffalo Bill in color and the Indians in black and white to show they were only background props. Or put 100 Buffalo Bills and one Indian to show the Wild West shows were really about glorifying the white man's conquests. Put Indians from 100 tribes behind Buffalo Bill to show the diversity of traditional Native cultures. Or put Indians from 100 modern occupations--doctor, lawyer, politician, astronaut--to show the diversity of today's Native people.
Sheesh. Ross's "art" seems lacking in artistry, to put it mildly. Maybe he should stick to shooting critters and let me take care of the art.
For more on Buffalo Bill's Wild West shows, see A Brief History of Native Stereotyping. For why these shows were stereotypical, see The Basic Indian Stereotypes.
P.S. A Kiowa Indian who enjoys my work...what a pleasant change. <g>