First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 86

REVIEWS above Unknown Naskapi artist, Man’s Coat, ca. 1840, caribou hide, pigment, 69¼ × 41½ in., collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American Art (2017.718.9). opposite RYAN! Feddersen (Okanagan-Sinixt), detail of Coyote Now Epic, 2018, ink on paper, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. A section titled Emissaries from the Past speaks to the ways objects bear witness to time, life, and events, alluding to the categorically (pre)historic works that can also be found throughout the galleries. A pair of Thule snow goggles, dating between 800 to 1200 CE, made from walrus ivory, are delicately adorned with linear engravings around the border. 84 | WWW.FIRSTAMERICANARTMAGAZINE.COM The thin carved slits filter out blinding sunlight and prevent windblown ice from coming into contact with the eyes, allowing the wearer an optimal field of vision in the Arctic. This very design has influenced modern protective eyewear, highlighting the ancestral innovation that continues to inform us today. The dormancy in these galleries is overwhelming at times, an emotion that is perhaps entirely unavoidable when displaying works created for use. What is missing is the pronounced recognition of their purposes to heal, to hold, to feed, or be fed. Wall text from Brian Vallo (Acoma) reads: “These works are still serving their purpose; their lives are not complete. They are fulfilling the thoughts and prayers of their makers—and offer blessings to all the people from around the world who visit these galleries.” While the artists’ lives certainly persist in this space, the idea that the intent of their makers is fulfilled here is difficult for me to reconcile. Although the Diker collection is predominantly ethnographically driven, seeking to build strong, historically informed representations of each region, it is clear that the couple is also inspired by pure aesthetic value. Included in this exhibition are masterful examples of quillwork, ceramics, and textiles. It should be noted that the Dikers have frequently loaned selections from their holdings to the Met and other museums, increasing their value with each showing. I believe that the canon of American art and visual culture must be expanded to include Indigeneity, an undertaking that inherently includes the role of American museums. With the Met representing a major influence as an encyclopedic institution, I left the show with a sense of ambiguity about the experience and a renewed sense of urgency for the need to prioritize more complete collaborations with Native curators, scholars, artists, and communities. Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection is on view at the Met through October 6, 2019, and a number of online educational resources accompany the exhibition. —Morgan E. Freeman