Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Oblique Drift

August 2, 2010 – January 2, 2011

Organized by Tania Willard, Curator, grunt gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia

Alaskan artist Nicholas Galanin brings his transformative work to the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, which extends from his series “The Imaginary Indian,” which juxtaposes manufactured Northwest Coast masks and French toile. Galanin explores the authentic and inauthentic and how interpretation, appropriation and “cultural drift ” inform Northwest Coast art. Showcasing new works from The Curtis Legacy Galanin strips masks, bodies and meaning down to reveal “The real strength in survival of indigenous knowledge and culture lies within the ability to freely and creatively represent ourselves.” Shifting the colonial gaze from ethnography to pin-up, The Curtis Legacy series includes nude models wearing Indonesian made Tlingit masks, referencing Edward Curtis photographs of the noble savage, these works lay bare the objectification of both the body and the sacred. Both series of works are brought together in Galanin’s examination of globalized culture(s), freedom of cultural expression and the manifestations of change in a world of shifting cultures and ancestral echoes.
-Tania Willard, Curator, grunt gallery

Artist Statement: Our language, our land, our dance, our ways, our elders and our children… this is the culturally divine path of righteous purity, supposedly unfettered. Unfortunately, this romanticized perspective has a nasty hangover. Oblique Drift is a visual collection of new works created to highlight, explore, mock, explode and appropriate this sideways seduction of indigenous cultural movement, the uncontrollable warm ocean current that gently leads this culture off of its intended course. The title refers to elements that quietly pull from the side, including economy, historical and cultural translation, social progression and conservative regression. My Tlingit culture’s idealistic direction has been subtly penned between the written lines of institutionalized media. Stereotype, diversity’s red headed stepchild, is a byproduct of this historical documentation. The great American Indian paradox is nothing new — a quondam cycle of inertia. As indigenous people, we have a responsibility to contribute change to this culture that has defined us… literally. Contributions of creative action and honesty can be made in lieu of self-oppressive constraint. History is often referred to as the guiding light to “Indian-ness”; and oftentimes communities or individuals are blinded by these lights. The real strength for survival of indigenous knowledge and culture lies within the ability to freely and creatively represent our selves. The nude models wearing Indonesian made Tlingit curios in The Curtis Legacy echo the work of historical photographer Edward Curtis and his preconceived photographs of the noble savage. Ostentatious objectification of a culture defined through photography; a colonial paradigm.
-Nicholas Galanin, Artist