Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Art & Art History

First Advisor

Annette de Stecher

Second Advisor

Robert Nauman

Third Advisor

Diane Conlin

Abstract

In my thesis, Wendy Red Star: Challenging Colonial Histories and Foregrounding the Impact of Violence Against Indigenous Women, I analyze two of Red Star’s photographic series, Four Seasons and White Squaw. I argue that Red Star uses irony, humor, parody, and erasure to challenge stereotypes and misrepresentations of Indigenous lives. In Four Seasons, Red Star uses irony and humor to critique historically marginalized images in museum exhibitions, and the stereotypes created as a result of visions of empty land, ethnographic photography, and commercialization of Indigenous cultures. In White Squaw, Red Star uses parody and erasure to reveal the negative impacts of sexploitation, gendered stereotypes, and Indigenous women and girls’ vulnerability to violence. In my thesis, I argue that Red Star’s work is contextualized in Indigenous feminism and identity-based art. Indigenous feminism differs from mainstream feminism. It is grounded in decolonization, Indigenous sovereignty, and Indigenous cultural values. Indigenous feminism examines the intersections of colonialism, racism, and sexism, and addresses how these intersections have marginalized Indigenous women.

Red Star offers a personal perspective in her art, by representing objects and artworks from her own Apsáalooke culture. She uses her elk tooth dress in Four Seasons to subvert the stereotypes being projected onto her within the backdrop of this photographic series. In White Squaw, Red Star uses her own portrait and adds this dimension of reciprocity, where whatever harm occurs to the heroine in the novels that she occupies, would also occur to her as a result of stereotypes. Red Star inhabits the stereotypes of Indigenous peoples and women in order to speak from a discourse of colonial misrepresentation from within a colonial system. Red Star inserts Apsáalooke culture in her artwork in order to present one example of an Indigenous woman’s experience; just one instance in an extremely complicated, interwoven web of misrepresentation, violence, and stereotypes. This personal perspective has the potential to reach a broad audience, to create a space for discussions about race, gender, and history, and to promote collective healing.

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