School of Art + Art History alumna Chloé Dye Sherpe (MA Art History ‘15) assisted RYAN! Feddersen in opening In Red Ink on July 7 at the Museum of Northwest Art in Washington.
The exhibition, which closes on Sept. 23, is part of Beyond the Frame: To be Native, a community-wide initiative that revisits the photographs of Edward S. Curtis to spark conversations on Native American identity, race, resilience, art and culture.
Curtis was a photographer who documented Native American culture through images. He was open about documenting these communities because he believed they would not survive Manifest Destiny.
“While many appreciate his photographs aesthetically, it would be a mistake to view them as historically accurate,” Sherpe said. “Much like other ethnographic photographers of the period, Curtis visited these people with a story to tell that he crafted, not his subject. Unfortunately, these images have had a lasting impact on how many view the Native community and many of the stereotypes still exist today.”
Responses to In Red Ink and Beyond the Frame: To be Native have been positive so far, Sherpe said. Many tribal cultural organizations are hosting their own exhibitions to try to negotiate and discuss the complicated legacy of Curtis’ images in their community.
In Red Ink features 20 Native American artists from 20 different tribes, and curator RYAN! Feddersen does not focus on Curtis in any text materials for the exhibition.
“Our exhibition is not about him,” Sherpe said. “The goal is to create a corrective lens on the stereotypes perpetuated by his photographs.”
Sherpe said she plans on having many more discussions with the Native American community about their thoughts on the exhibition and how museums can better partner with their communities.
“I think that the artists felt valued and knew that they had a space to show their history and contemporary reality to share with the public,” Sherpe said. “For me, that is the greatest achievement so far.