The new exhibition by Heroine Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke/Crow, born 1981) is an immersive installation at Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Opening on January 30th, 2021, the exhibition is the result of Wendy’s deep, ongoing scholarship of archival material relating to her Apsáalooke/Crow heritage – scholarship that seeks to honour Indigenous individuality and experiences, and reclaim their place in American history.
Red Star’s previous work 1880 Crow Peace Delegation (2014) powerfully highlights and challenges colonial dehumanisation and commercial appropriation of the image of Indigenous people. The work consists of ten historical portraits by Charles Milton Bell (1848–1893), made of Crow representatives gathered in Washington DC to engage in land and territory negotiations with the US government. Scanned copies of the photographs are annotated with rich details informed by historical research, restoring the voice of each sitter’s individuality and legacy.
In Wendy’s exhibition, her research-led multimedia practice now takes us back to the 1898 Indian Congress held in Omaha alongside the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition – a grand show of US government technological and military accomplishments. With Wild West carnival flair, aspects of Native American culture were displayed to the event’s two and a half million visitors. Commercial portrait photographer Frank Rinehart (1861–1928) was in attendance, employed to make portraits of Indian Congress members.
Hundreds of images of Indian Congress attendees were made during the Exposition, including of White Swan, an Apsáalooke artist and US military scout. The scholarship of these photographs, along with those made during Rinehart’s subsequent visit to Wendy’s hometown of Pryor, Montana to photograph Apsáalooke people on their homeland, gives rise to the upcoming exhibition in which Red Star reconvenes the Indian Congress in Omaha. In the artist’s immersive installation, an Exposition display will be recreated – no doubt enlivened and enriched with details both humorous and unsettling.
Wendy Red Star holds a BFA from Montana State University, Bozeman, and an MFA in Sculpture from University of California, Los Angeles. Her work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Saint Louis Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Autry Museum of the American West, among many others. A mid-career retrospective of Red Star’s work, A Scratch on the Earth, was shown in 2019 at the Newark Museum. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.
Joslyn Art Museum is open but booking may be required.
By Demelza Kingston