First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 18

SEVEN DIRECTIONS MIRANDA BELARDE-LEWIS A MOTHER, INDEPENDENT CURATOR, AND ASSIS- TANT PROFESSOR at the University of Washington’s In f o r m at i o n S c h o o l , M i r a n d a Belarde-Lewis, PhD (Zuni-Tlingit), works with tribal, state, and national museums strengthening Indigenous voices through educational program- ming, scholarship, and exhibitions. Her research focuses on how Native communities use art cross-culturally and intergenerationally to communicate information and knowledge. Miranda has curated exhibitions for the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington, and for the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington. She loves beads. EAST: The Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting a yearlong run of 116 Native masterworks in the exhibition Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection. Having Native art on display at the Met is a win for Native artists every- where, and the inclusion of Native scholars is evident in many of the extended labels. The exhibition no doubt benefited from having such a prestigious group on its advisory committee, and the pop-up museum store outside the exhibition features Native artists from the B.Yellowtail Collective. The Native jewelry for sale continues a trend that began with The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky in 2015 and one that the Met reportedly intends to continue for many years. However, for all the good happening here, the Met is reifying several inaccurate assumptions about what Native art is supposed to look like and the privilege of curatorial voice. 16 | WWW.FIRSTAMERICANARTMAGAZINE.COM First, by placing this exhibition in the Met’s American Wing (colonial to early 20th-century modern), the show is limited to ancient and historic works, teaching a largely unin- formed audience that Native art is and looks like it was made over 100 years ago. This messaging plays into the vanishing Native trope that has been used to frame exhibitions of Native artifacts without acknowledging contemporary Native peoples or the ongoing production of material culture and art happening in Native communities right now. While there are some text- based considerations that there be a fundamental reframing of the relationship between “American” history and “Native” history, that message is perhaps too subtle. Second, the pieces shown at the Met are from a private collection from people who have already shown their collec- tion, including many of the same pieces, in widely traveled and cataloged exhibitions. Each iteration of the Charles and Valerie Diker collection shown—Native Paths (1999), First American Art (2004), Indigenous Beauty (2014), and now Art of Native America (2018)—contributes not only to the monetary value of their collection but to their reputation and legacy as patrons of Native art. They are ensuring this legacy as many of the pieces on display are prominently labeled as promised gifts to the Met. Third, this most recent installment of the Diker collection was consulted on and supplemented by Native scholars and curators in their own right but was curated by non-Natives who did not include Native names for objects and included objects that are possibly designated as culturally sensitive according to NAGPRA. Included in the selection are shamanic or medicine objects that require the utmost cultural sensitivity. It is hard to make the case that cultural sensitivity was present when the labels themselves gloss over questionable provenance of “extremely