VI­BRANT NU­ANCE

The Pe­abody Es­sex Mu­seum ex­plores the paint­ings, po­etry and pol­i­tics of T.C. Can­non.

Native American Art - - MUSEUM EXHIBITONS -

The Pe­abody Es­sex Mu­seum ex­plores the paint­ings, po­etry and pol­i­tics of T.C. Can­non.

SALEM, MA

T.C. Can­non (1946–1978) was born in Ok­la­homa to a Kiowa fa­ther and a Caddo mother. Dur­ing his brief life (he died in a car crash near Santa Fe, New Mex­ico, when he was 31) he stud­ied at the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Art (IAIA) dur­ing its vi­brant early years, was awarded two Bronze Stars in Viet­nam, and put an in­deli­ble mark on con­tem­po­rary Na­tive Amer­i­can art.

IAIA en­cour­aged its stu­dents to learn about their tra­di­tions and to then paint how and what they wanted. Can­non was among the first to place his tra­di­tion­ally garbed sub­jects in con­tem­po­rary main­stream set­tings.

Karen Kramer writes, “Through Can­non’s fig­u­ra­tive work, he re­jected the ac­cepted, ex­pected

rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Na­tive rit­ual life and in­stead chose to sur­face is­sues of the bru­tal trau­mas wrought by colo­nial­ism and power dy­nam­ics. Con­cur­rently, through his paint­ings, po­etry and mu­sic, he also em­pha­sized the ways in which Na­tive Amer­i­cans per­sisted and thrived—some­times in qui­etly rad­i­cal everyday ways—in the face of op­pres­sion.”

Kramer is cu­ra­tor of Na­tive Amer­i­can and Oceanic art and cul­ture at the Pe­abody Es­sex Mu­seum in Salem, Mas­sachusetts, and cu­ra­tor of the ex­hi­bi­tion T.C. Can­non: At the Edge of Amer­ica, which opened March 3 and con­tin­ues through June 10.

The 90 works in­clude 30 ma­jor paint­ings and are as fresh and vi­brant to­day as they were in the tur­bu­lent 1960s and ’70s, ad­dress­ing is­sues that con­tinue to be rel­e­vant.

Kramer says, “Never shy­ing from the com­plex­ity and nu­ance of iden­tity pol­i­tics, Can­non in­ter­ro­gated Amer­i­can his­tory and pop­u­lar cul­ture through his Na­tive lens and showed us that Na­tive Amer­i­can his­tory and cul­ture are in­te­gral to the Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The pain­ter was also a poet and a mu­si­cian and the ex­hi­bi­tion adds sub­stance to that part of his out­put in­clud­ing an au­dio record­ing that will play in the gal­leries.

The mu­seum has com­mis­sioned the Choctaw mu­si­cian Sa­man­tha Crain to write mu­sic and per­form a song in re­sponse to Can­non’s most mon­u­men­tal paint­ing, a 22-foot mu­ral, Epochs in Plains His­tory: Mother Earth, Fa­ther Sun, the Chil­dren

Them­selves, 1976-77.

Can­non signed the paint­ing with hand­prints in the cen­ter con­nect­ing his present and the past.

Na­tive artists had be­gun to in­cor­po­rate in­flu­ences from Euro­pean paint­ing tra­di­tions in the ’50s. Can­non read vo­ra­ciously, lis­tened to opera—as well as Bob Dy­lan and Woody Guthrie—and stud­ied artists from Matisse to Rauschen­berg.

In Col­lec­tor #3, 1974, a Na­tive woman re­clines nude in the pose of a tra­di­tional Odal­isque. She rests on a Na­tive rug Matisse would have loved. Can­non’s linocut, Big Sol­dier, 1971, hangs on the wall.

An­other print, this time a wood­cut, A Re­mem­bered Muse (Tosca), 1978, is from the last year of his life and is a fit­ting sum­ma­tion of his ca­reer. A cou­ple, dressed tra­di­tion­ally, lis­ten to Puc­cini’s Tosca on their Vic­trola phono­graph with its large morn­ing glory shaped horn. A dan­gling light bulb at­tests to their hav­ing elec­tric­ity in their home. They are a modern cou­ple at home in their an­cient tra­di­tions.

Can­non wrote, “We are the em­bod­i­ment of tra­di­tion at this very mo­ment. Thru our present work will evolve those in­evitable nu­ances and man­ner­isms that the far fu­ture will praise or abol­ish.”

1. Epochs in Plains His­tory: Mother Earth, Fa­ther Sun, the Chil­dren Them­selves, 1976-77, oil on can­vas. Seat­tle Of­fice of Arts and Cul­ture, Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton. © 2017 Es­tate of T.C. Can­non. Photo by Gary Hawkey/io­color.

5. Col­lec­tor #3, 1974, acrylic and oil on can­vas. Col­lec­tion of Alexis Demir­jian. © 2017 Es­tate of T.C. Can­non. Photo by Tim Nightswan­der/ Imag­ing4art. 4

3 2. A Re­mem­bered Muse (Tosca), 1978, wood­cut. Anne Aber­bach+fam­ily, Par­adise Val­ley, Ari­zona. © 2017 Es­tate of T.C. Can­non. Photo by Thosh Collins.

3. His Hair Flows Like a River, 1973, oil on can­vas. Anne Aber­bach+fam­ily, Par­adise Val­ley, Ari­zona. © 2017 Es­tate of T. C. Can­non. Photo by Thosh Collins.

4. Por­trait of T. C. Can­non, ca. 1965. Cour­tesy of Ar­chives of the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Arts. 5

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