First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 64

PROFILE MANDAN-HIDATSA-ARIKARA-LAKOTA INTERDISCIPLINARY ARTIST CANNUPA HANSKA LUGER By Alicia Inez Guzmán, PhD I N NOVEMBER 2018, Cannupa Hanska Luger won the inaugural Burke Prize, named for Marian and Russell Burke, collectors of craft and supporters of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. The award aims to fund an artist under the age of 45 who best represents the future of craft in the media of glass, fiber, clay, metal, or wood—materials often overlooked or undervalued in contemporary art. As we edge into a century of synthetic things and mediated experiences, craft may feel nostalgic, of the past. Luger, who grew up between the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota and Arizona, is of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota, Austrian, and Norwegian descent. In the last decade he has become known as a ceramicist, forging creatures big and small in clay. Some are animals—owls and other birds, deer, coyotes, buffalo—and others human. And then there are the things that don’t fall into either category: ciga- rettes, bottles, beer cans, arrows, and daggers. But even describing the animal, human, and human-made doesn’t quite get at how much one of Luger’s forms can merge into another. Their quality of shapeshifting, their curves and edges, their glossy and opaque slips and glazes, their ability to yield many meanings, from the condition of humanity that we all share to histories of colonialism and the stereotypes of indigeneity birthed out of the belly of manifest destiny and today’s pop culture. Still, all give the sense that they are made by hand—his hand—many carrying the artist’s signa- ture, small painted characters that spell out Hanska. And that seems to be at the core of what craft is, objects bearing the imprint of their maker, especially important when much of the world’s things are anonymously manufactured. Yet the Burke Prize is pivotal to the extent that it directs our gazes forward, to the future of what making things by hand looks like. For Luger that future is, of course, Indigenous. It is also undefined by a single medium—neither ceramics, nor performance, nor even social practice. They’re all part of the same story. He’s at 62 | WWW.FIRSTAMERICANARTMAGAZINE.COM a tipping point, between object and prac- tice, one long in the making. LUGER RECEIVED HIS BFA degree at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe where he “was able to create a relationship of learning to clay.” Before that there were stints in Phoenix, where he went to high school, and Seattle, where he flirted with slam poetry. At IAIA, though, his professors gave him free reign to produce. He says,