"Why is Jimmie Durham the artist—or, at least, one of very few artists—selected for a major touring retrospective? Why isn’t more art by Native Americans collected, contextualized, and presented by major institutions like the Walker, the Whitney, and MoMA? And why is there so little representation—both within the staffs of contemporary art institutions and in the critical art press that covers them—of Native American, First Nations, and indigenous peoples?"
The traveling exhibition Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World has reignited longstanding questions about the artist’s identification as Cherokee, sparking numerous critiques by Cherokee artists and curators and defenses by Native and non-native curators alike, from Ashley Holland and America Meredith to Paul Chaat Smith and Anne Ellegood, the Hammer Museum curator who organized the show. But while much has been written about the controversy itself, which is sure to intensify as the exhibition tours to New York and Saskatoon in coming months, it tends to eclipse a larger issue: the dearth of opportunities within the contemporary art field for Native American artists. Responding to this situation, I organized a Skype conversation with a range of Native artists and scholars. The discussion, co-conceived with and moderated by Sicangu Lakota artist Dyani White Hawk, was published on Walker Reader today, October 12, 2017, as a text conversation plus audio interview. It features:
Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo Nation), an Associate Curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in New York.
Jeffrey Gibson (Mississippi Band of Choctaw), a New York–based mid-career multidisciplinary artist.
Luzene Hill (Eastern Band of Cherokee), a multimedia artist based in Atlanta, best known for conceptual installations addressing the issue of violence against women.
Candessa Tehee, PhD (Cherokee Nation), a Tahlequah-based artist based and ssistant professor of Cherokee and Indigenous Studies and coordinator of the Cherokee Language Program at Northeastern State University