It isn’t much of a stretch to see artist Rory Wakemup’s aluminum stormtrooper costume Buffalo Thunder Trooper as a commentary on the misrepresentation of Native peoples in a lot of non-Native art.
For instance, artist Rory Wakemup’s aluminum stormtrooper costume created as a costume for a performance piece, bears familiar aspects of the foot soldier’s regalia, like the stormtrooper helmet, but he’s added a feather headdress, perhaps inspired by the tradiNative tional Chippewa dress that forms part of his heritage. The irony is that the headdress is reserved for the chief or the warrior for acts of bravery, and the stormtrooper is a mindless drone, a slave to the Empire with no will of his own. It isn’t much of a stretch to see as a commentary on the misrepresentation of Native peoples in a lot of non-Native art. Similarly, Jonathan Loretto’s
and two Native bobble-head figures bearing lightsabers, inspired by the toy figures that grace many a car dashboard, are rendered in clay and bear a resemblance to more traditional Cochití figurines.
But which includes works by Wakemup and Loretto, as well as Natalie Ball, Gerald Clarke Jr., Jonathan Thunder, Joe Fedderson, and Drew Michael, is not a exhibit. and high voltage towers seem at odds with cultural practices steeped in tradition such as travel by hand-carved canoe. Some of these forms converge in a single composition that Fedderson renders in a style that resembles ancient petroglyph designs and graffiti art at the same time, begging comparisons between the two, or a recognition that mark-making as a means of expression is as vital today as it was in the past. That awareness of history is key, perhaps, to understanding the exhibit on the whole. Whether these artists are looking forward to what will be, or back to what was, they are speaking to the present moment. Now is the time.