Indigenous Artists’ Work Featured in Crisp Museum

by News Bureau on Friday, Jun. 22, 2012

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., June 22, 2012 – “Our People, Our Land, Our Images,” an exhibition of photography which features the work of indigenous artists from North America, Peru, Iraq and New Zealand, will open July 6 in the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Museum at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus.

This traveling exhibit will remain on display through Aug. 12 and is a program of ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance with the Missouri Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

This landmark exhibition brings together 26 Indigenous photographers from throughout the United States, Canada, Peru and New Zealand to explore the dynamic field of photography.

All the exhibiting artists met together at UC Davis: University of California, where they discussed pertinent issues in creating their artwork and shared their experiences with each other in group sessions, as well as with the general public in formal artist panels. The result is this exhibition, featuring two works by each artist that demonstrate the longevity of Native peoples practicing photography.

The earliest pieces are those of Cherokee photographer, Jennie Ross Cobb from 1902 in Tahlequah, Okla. She is the earliest known female Native American photographer. Her works raise critical distinctions between those photographing their own communitites from the inside, with familiarity and respect; and other non-Natives photographing at this time on behalf of the government, expansionism or academic research.

At the same time, Benjamin Haldane, a Tsimshian techie of his time, opened a professional portraiture studio in the remote community of Metlakatla, Alaska. At a time when studio portraiture was most popular, Haldane contributed widely to his community through a range of activities, but most importantly by photographically documenting his clients and communities in the way in which they wished to be imaged.

This group of works reflects the diversity of technologies, subject matter, vision, and style but resonate together by the ties to the artist’s own communities. Like those photographers before them, they demonstrate the ownership and authority to image from within. Their work continues to inspire and influence the prominent artists working today.

The exhibition includes professional artists, Master of Fine Arts students, and students of photography. Their work reassures the continuance of this art form within Indigenous communities, and continues to challenge the field that, historically, has been so destructive and aggressive in colonial history.

This traveling photography exhibit was organized by CN Gorman Museum, UC Davis. Financial assistance for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

The Crisp Museum is located in the Cultural Arts Center at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus, located at 518 S. Fountain St. in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1-4 p.m. on weekends. For more information, call (573) 651- 2260 or email museum@semo.edu.