WHAT ROLE DOES ART PLAY IN SOCIETY?
On an individual level, art is the way the artist is confronting the problems they see. They are asking questions, they are seeking a new way of thinking. As I mentioned before, there was no word for Art in the Dakota language, what people created then was like creating a prayer through their designs. I’ve been told that one of the things that was wrong to steal was the designs of another person — these were family heirlooms. While owning land and possessions wasn’t a priority back then, having a vision and a dream meant so much more to a person. So I think today, art is a prayer or energy that society needs to listen to.
There are several words people associate with regional Native artist Marlena Myles’ digital illustrations. Freeborn County Arts Initiative President Elisha Andrew Marin calls them “incredibly painstaking.” Curator and artist Susanne Crane calls them “techy,” “current and of the essence.”
But what are they not?
“The common misconception with Native art is that it’s traditional — it’s stuck in the past,” Myles said. “But the truth is that Native people have always been innovative. … So, to use Illustrator is just a continuation of what my ancestors already did.”
Myles said her designs pay homage to Lakota and Dakota women, who did more geometric, abstract art while the men tended toward figurative designs of war battles.
While at a casino, I once over heard a little girl asking her Caucasian father, “do Native Americans have kids?” The father laughed at the question, but to this little girl, the stereotypes of Native Americans in society are probably all she has ever witnessed, so it really seemed plausible Native Americans exist in a separate reality; one where we are stagnant entities, sad and lost to history. However, this exhibition challenges that tired stereotypical perspective of Native Americans by profiling Indigenous artists, performers and activists with the photography of John Ratzloff, who is a non-Native American.