First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 85

REVIEWS with found objects, employing a variety of extended techniques, like playing the tail pipe with a violin bow. The projection of what was the final concert could have been mixed in with the original, projecting itself onto itself once again, ad infinitum. In this way, the exhibition would extend eternally as its nature seemed ever-changing, with each new event unfolding onto itself, reimagining the space, rearranging the original materials and/or obliterating them entirely. At the same time, the multimedia exhibition was an eloquent work, finite in its infiniteness. I am reminded that everything has its time, and all things continue in some form through the processes of entropy and evolution. —Thollem NEW YORK Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection The Met Fifth Avenue F OR THE FIRST TIME in its 92-year-history, the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has devoted an entire exhibition space to the display of Native American art with the exhibition Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection. The show, which opened on October 4, 2018, consists of 116 works from the private collection of Charles and Valerie Diker, the majority of which are donated and promised gifts to the Met. The Dikers have been collecting Native American art since the 1970s, with many of the works dating from the 2nd through the early 20th centuries. Art of Native America, a collabo- rative curatorial project, was overseen by Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing 1. 2. 3. 4. at the Met. Guest curators are Gaylord Torrence, Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art, and Marjorie Alexander, Curatorial Consultant of American Indian Art, both at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Numerous Native experts of material and visual culture, including Kathleen Ash-Milby (Diné), Nadia Jackinsky (Alutiiq), and Jolene Rickard (Tuscarora), contributed to the exhibition’s scholarship. Many Native and non-Native contributors were also left unnamed. Art of Native America is undoubtedly a monumental turning point in the institu- tion’s classification of American art, and it dramatically strengthens the museum’s existing Native American collection. New director Max Hollein assumed office in August 2018 and, during this period of leadership transition, the Met is asserting a commitment to honoring Native peoples within the city of New York and throughout the country. At the exhibition’s entrance, an acknowledgment reads, “The Metropolitan Museum of Art is situated in Lenapehoking, the homeland of Lenape peoples, and respectfully acknowledges their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to the area.” While this effort is significant, the museum must also recognize its own relationship to Lenapehoking, which extends well beyond this exhibition. As Mi r an d a B e l ard e - L e w i s (Zuni-Tlingit) observes, this collection includes a number of objects that are culturally sensitive, some intended for ceremonial and funerary purposes. 1 Despite the consultation from scholars regarding objects from their respective homelands, many of the object labels stray from using the proper Native languages, opting for English translations such as “mask” in place of the Alutiiq word giinaquq or giinaruaq. Within a month of the Art of Native America’s opening, Shannon Keller O’Loughlin (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), director of the Association of American Indian Affairs, publicly objected to the classification of these works as art and stated that the advisory committee for the exhibition failed to properly consult with tribal governments. 2 This objection calls attention to the difference between collaboration versus consultation. In this case, curators Gaylord Torrence and Marjorie Alexander, both non-Native, were responsible for interpreting advice from Native consultants and advisors into a show that would—in their opinion— best suit an audience of approximately seven million yearly visitors. When asked about the layout of the show, which is organized simply by region (Woodlands, Plains, Plateau, Arctic, California & Great Basin, Southwest, Northwest Coast, and Arctic), Torrence said that the selected structure was decidedly the easiest means for international visitors to begin to understand the breadth of cultural variation within Native America. 3 The success of this kind of survey depends entirely, of course, on the personal collection of the Dikers. The collection holds significant works including three striking beaded hoods that sit in the center of the largest gallery, two are James Bay Cree and the other Ojibwe. The designs included in such mid-19th century hoods (e mitsuits utstuden in Cree) were often highly personal, their motifs decided on by the beadwork artist according to the life of wearer. 4 The rapid decline in their use amid prolonged settler contact makes such masterpieces rarely found outside of select museum collections. With their unmistakable floral patterns of the Subarctic and Northeast Woodlands, these hoods serve as a reminder of the powerful language of beadwork, which has served as a method for political resistance and spiritual expression for centuries. Intricately beaded California basketry, in the final gallery of the exhibition, also demonstrates the widespread and diverse adoption of this material. Miranda Belarde-Lewis, “Seven Directions,” First American Art Magazine 21 (Winter 2018/19): 16–17. Gabriella Angeleti, “Native American group denounces Met’s exhibition of indigenous objects,” The Art Newspaper (November 6, 2018), web. Gaylord Torrence in discussion with the author, October 2, 2018. Paula Menarick, “James Bay Cree Hood,” Otsego Alumni Review (Summer 2015), web. SPRING 2019 | 83