Out Of Many: Religious Pluralism in America
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Jeffrey Gibson and the “Acceptance of Self”

The matrix and dilemma of fixed identity and cultural purity still underlies the reception of artists who have ties to the indigenous community and contribute to how the artist situates himself in this matrix. A contemporary example of this dilemma is Jeffrey Gibson.

In the article which discusses the artist’s recent explosion in popularity, the tensions between his own history and educational trajectory and his “acceptance of self” are clearly outlined. Similarly to Oscar Howe’s complaint about the rigid norms of Indian art, Gibson, as quoted in the New York Times article says:

“The way we describe identity here is so reductive,” …“It never bleeds into seeing you as a more multifaceted person.” But now “I’m finally at the point where I can feel comfortable being your introduction” to American Indian culture, he added. “It’s just a huge acceptance of self.” (Kino, 2013)

This quote comes from an artist who rejected his history while a student at the Art Institute and only recently began to incorporate aspects of the traditional indigenous culture into his art. But it paid off well for him: he has or will have exhibits at the National Academy; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba, New York City; and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College. All of these exhibits include art from this artist who hybridizes indigenous and modernist traditions into his art.

Questions to Consider

  • How much does and should identity play in the reception of an artist's work?
  • Do we only ask about identiy with artists who are in some way connected to a culture deemed "Other"? Or do we ask about identity of artists who are unmarked (white, male, etc.)?

Works Cited and Consulted

Carol Kino, "At Peace with Many Tribes," New York Times. May 15, 2013.

 

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[1] At Peace with Many Tribes, May 15, 2013.

[2] Ibid.