First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 91

BOOK REVIEW Foundation and the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and her pieces have been featured in The New York Times and The American Poet. Arnold has organized numerous solo exhibitions, serving in curatorial roles at his current post, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and at the Art Gallery of Windsor in Ontario. His experience with exhibition catalogues places him in a strong position to collaborate with Claxton in representing her courageous art practice. A communi- cations studies professor at Concordia University, Monika Kin Gagnon’s research focuses on the intersections of cultural memory, the archive, and lens-based art. In Claxton’s acknowl- edgments, she expresses gratitude to Gagnon for their 25 years of “journeys.” A doctoral candidate at New York University and the managing editor of Women & Performance, Olivia Michiko Gagnon’s dissertation is titled “Archival Entanglements: Re/ Encountering History in Contemporary Feminist, Queer, and Decolonial Art & Performance.” An informed analysis of Claxton’s work in this context will greatly benefit contemporary art discourse. Garneau, a visual arts professor at the University of Regina, provides a multidisciplinary approach, stemming from his work as an artist, curator, and writer, akin to Claxton’s variety of creative roles. Lastly, as art history associate professor at the University of British Columbia (where Claxton is chair of the Department of Art History, Visual Art, and Theory), Jaleh Mansoor is working on a three-year project, supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant, with the artist. While researching Claxton’s practice last year, the information I was able to locate was scattered between sources, thus I found this catalogue to be immensely valuable. A necessary resource for further discussion of Dana Claxton’s work in art historical discourses at large, it fills a need by providing specifics about the artist’s processes and practice. The text provides a vast amount of detail, and the volume’s pacing and delivery nurture a reader’s desire to get to know Claxton’s art in both visual analysis and broader contexts. In addition to its vivid essays, the catalogue features many photographic reproductions of Claxton’s works. It was challenging for me to find such examples, as there simply are not many images of Claxton’s work readily available online. Here, readers have the opportunity to delve in and examine Dana Claxton’s ensembles in a high-quality format that offers visual integrity to the original artworks. The array of contexts in the catalogue create a constel- lation around Claxton’s works and recall the mixture of lived experiences that fuse in the artist’s performative and imagistic expressions. In this volume, Claxton’s art is associated with her sun dance and jingle dance practices, Jeff Wall’s photographic light boxes, Vancouver’s fraught social history, Conceptual Art, and even the MTV channel’s music videos. Additionally the “Chronology” section outlines Claxton’s familial heritage. Her maternal great-grandparents were among the band of Sitting Bull’s (Hunkpapa Lakota, 1831–1890) followers who walked to Wood Mountain, North-Western Territory (now Saskatchewan), where her great-grandparents remained. As such, Claxton’s family is from the Wood Mountain Reserve and from Moose Jaw, the subject of her 2004 commissioned artwork for the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery. This exhibition catalogue seems designed to serve as a primary resource for art scholars and museum professionals, and some of the language may seem too niche-focused for a collector or enthusiast. Specifically, Arnold’s references to Vizenor’s “postindian” theories and Mansoor’s labor-economy concepts may prove to be the more challenging points. Without prior experience with these contexts, some readers could become frustrated with the academic tone of these essays. However, I also realize that including these ideas serves as the good kind of risk-taking that helps expand the conversation surrounding Claxton’s art. Moreover, this type of interdisciplinary discussion is needed within fine art departments in the academy to help break the boundaries surrounding extant Native American and First Nations art historical texts. Thus, these essays appear to call for more dialogical responses—either written or curated. Overall, Dana Claxton: Fringing the Cube is a book you will need to stay current with Claxton’s work. Clearly, this is the best reference of her career in print. While the authorial voice changes from one chapter to the next, this is precisely what keeps the catalogue interesting. And this rhythmic variation reflects the fragmentary fusion that runs throughout Claxton’s multimedia art practice. The exhibition catalogue can be purchased through the Vancouver Art Gallery’s online store, and it is well suited for both professional scholarship and university classrooms. —Michelle J. Lanteri SPRING 2019 | 89