Tonight I went to a lecture as a part in the Contemporary Indigenous Artist Lecture Series at the Portland Art Museum.  The featured artist, Nicholas Galanin, presented a wide range of work commenting on the role of indigenous tradition in his art and how his own Tlingit and Aleut histories have been shaped by outsiders through literature and other media.

The pieces he presented that I found especially beautiful were his profile and head or mask-like sculptures made up of book pages or other papers.  To see some of these works, please visit Galanin’s website, or better yet, his flickr site, which contains larger pictures for viewing.

Another project that interested me was Who We Are, which is comprised of about 25,000 previously photographed artifacts from Native American coastal tribes that had been previously recorded on laser disk (apparently the best technology at this point in time).  Galanin runs all of these images quickly on a fifteen minute loop, moving beyond the objects themselves.  As explained on his website,  “[t]he speed of the piece, and its overload of images, evokes the superficiality of contemporary life, in which complex phenomena are reduced to sound-bytes or media spots…Fascinating though they are, the flickering transformations create a disturbing sense of moving all too fast, with forms melting into each other at a rate that defies comprehension or control.”

Although thought-provoking, I left the lecture unsatisfied.  I probably just wanted to see a larger body of work that delved even deeper into the themes Galanin had already started to investigate.  He mentioned that he might want to move to Portland after this visit, so maybe I can watch his work continue to evolve in my own backyard.  You never know.

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