Terese Marie Mailhot

Terese Mailhot: I cringe at what passes as Native 'art' these days

Are Native artists and media failing to produce substantive works? Writer Terese Marie Mailhot (Seabird Island Band) asks some tough questions:
I cringe when I see articles like “Ten Types of Rez Moms,” or when I run across yet another Native male comedy troupe, which uses women like props, if we’re represented at all. I’ve done the work of justifying bad Native art for long enough, because who wants to be caught criticizing another fellow Native artist publicly? It’s practically forbidden; better we keep to criticizing the millions of non-Natives appropriating our work than to engage in the equally taxing effort of questioning ourselves.

The vacant work of some Native art is so lacking I’ve felt ashamed for staying quiet. I mean, do we need more Photoshopped images of old photos of unnamed Native men in regalia within some contemporary setting. Do we really need another piece of work juxtaposing the ‘traditional’ against the contemporary? It’s enough to leave me asking who we’re doing this for. Somehow this work never gets old, and continues being novel, relevant, overexposed and under criticized.

The listicles, my god, the lists reducing Native people, or ‘rez life’—it seems to be what Big Bang Theory is for people who pride themselves on being nerds, a bunch of familiar things to no avail, with no real message or remark—it’s a thoughtless waste that goes viral, infecting the very nature of our social media interactions. We become less substantive the more garbage floods our eyes, leaving us unable to discern ‘good’ from ‘bad,’ and, yeah, I know that good art is subjective, and I’m familiar with the commodification of art, and aesthetic, but there’s literally nothing that could convince me to buy into these familiar, boring, limited efforts, from what seems like people who could genuinely do better.

Read More on the Story:
Terese Marie Mailhot: Quality and Control: How Native Artists Have Failed to Criticize Each Other (Indian Country Media Network 6/8)

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