First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 79

REVIEWS artworks by the invited Native American and First Nations practitioners. These artists’ individualized styles create a dialogue with the exhibition’s title and overarching theme, Casa tomada, the name of a 1946 fictional short story by Argentinian author Julio Cortázar that metaphorically critiqued national politics of the time. Adding curatorial context, Blondet offered three more interpretations of Casa tomada and translated it as “house under the influence,” “drunk house,” or even “house under siege,” with a military connotation. Notions of siege clearly take form in Heap of Birds’s Surviving Active Shooter Custer (2018), two sets of works on paper, with 24 monoprints on one wall and their 24 ghost prints, or visual echoes, on the adjacent wall. Made with blood-red, viscous backgrounds inscribed in thick, white lettering, the prints sample from several sources including rez radio song lyrics like “Navajo Don’t You Know Love You So”; United States military code words, where Bedonkohe Apache leader Geronimo’s name was recast as an American code for Bin Laden; and a reference to the 1868 Washita Massacre in the sentence, “STOP ACTIVE SHOOTER CADET AUTIE CUSTER.” 3 Overall, the installation conveys a feeling of constantly being wrapped in reconfigured meanings of rhetoric. Here, the phrases reveal language’s vulnerability to appropriative betrayal, while the ghost prints function as reruns or fading memories. As such, these panels create new cognitive word associations while triggering experiential recollections across time. Histories of remembrance and transformation comprise two of the main themes of the exhibition. Victoria Mamnguqsualuk’s colored-pencil drawings on paper and embroidered and felted wool panels visualize productive and communicative relationships between animals and humans. A main focus of her work revolves around the Inuit culture hero, Kiviuq, who time traveled between different cultures and eras and even subverted a Soviet satellite during the Cold War years. 4 In Mamnguqsualuk’s deftly choreographed illustrations, Indigenous concepts of time as spiral, circular, and overlapping emerge in the human, animal, and spirit beings that move around and through each other’s forms. An ethos of energy exchange and collaboration runs deeply in these works, and viewers have the opportunity to grasp the significance of her visual expression in her honoring of home through meaningful imagery. Aspects of home also take center stage in Melissa Cody’s dynamically colored, woven wool panels. Cody has recently been using her weaving practice as a coping method and abstract release to mourn loss. 5 Her aesthetic is based on the Navajo Germantown weaving style and also the weaving from the 1864 Long Walk, when Diné people dismantled and rewove blankets given as rations. 6 Cody threads words and letter arrangements— poetry—between brightly patterned, geometric areas. She also creates solely graphic panels that represent her interpre- tations of Diné iconography. Overall, Cody’s panels reflect an intertwining of personal, collective, and pop culture histories in vivid, woven compositions. Eric-Paul Riege created diyin+, hooghan and weaving dance (fig. 3) for Na’ashjé’íí Asdzáá, Retha, Effie, and Angela (2018), a symbolic architecture that includes a group of photographic prints on panels, two regalia sets, and a male hogan made of wool looms. His onsite performance created an intimate, new relationship between him and this artwork by honoring Spiderwoman’s gift of weaving to the Diné people in a personal dedication and enactment of the weaving process. 7 In this performance, he deeply engaged with Spiderwoman’s communal legacy by using his body as a primary media and temporal bridge. The works of Yuxweluptun and Pitseolak also make strong use of figurative gesture. Yuxweluptun’s five sculptures, above Melissa Cody (Navajo), US, 2015, wool, aniline dyes, 351/2 × 13 in., private collection. o pp o s i t e John Hoover (Unangax̂, 1919–2011), Great White Heron Spirit Helper, 1976, wood, collection of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK. Photo: Mariah Ashbacher. 3. Candice Hopkins, “You Might Say That The Masters Never Saw It Coming,” in Casa tomada, ed. Lucy Flint (Santa Fe: SITE Santa Fe, 2018). 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Melissa Cody in discussion with the author, August 1, 2018. 7. Hopkins, “You Might Say That The Masters Never Saw It Coming.” WINTER 2018/19 | 77