Apache Skateboards Presents “What Tribe?” at Sagrado Gallery During March’s Art Detour
Photos by Chancey Teholatanek and Phoenix Taco
For March’s First Friday event during Artlink’s Art Detour weekend, The Sagrado hosted “What Tribe?”, curated by Douglas Miles of Apache Skateboards. What Tribe? exposes and comments on the plethora of racial Native American stereotypes widely embraced by popular culture. Images appearing in the show are often found in Victoria Secret advertisements, popular social media sites like Tumblr, or in the portfolio of any established tattoo artist. Headdresses, dream catchers, and teepee’s were in abundance, as well as historical figures like Geronimo, who have become popularized as universal archetypes of Native culture.
In most contexts, these symbols are irrelevant to Native art, applying only to specific tribes that popular culture has homogenized into stereotypes and generalizations. For the artists in What Tribe?, these references of Native culture are presented with a hint of mockery, as if to reclaim their meaning, like in Thomas Breeze Marcus’s installation of teepees grouped together with the words “Slum Village” written above. This work and others like it are a powerful testimony to the fact that Native American resistance to outside influence continues into the 21st century. To visit a reservation in the United States is to visit what would be considered a third world country by other standards– rates of unemployment, sexual violence, and disease soar astronomically above the national average. When considering the reality of today’s Native American communities, it’s understandable that Native artists like those in “What Tribe?” would fight against stereotypical representations of their culture that reflect nothing of the true circumstances.
Still, other artists showed work that contained little, if any overt traces of their “tribal” background, like in Sam Gomez’s photographs featured above. When asked, he explained that one of the photographs featured was taken on the San Carlos Apache Reservation during a community event, but there is no obvious indication of this. The photograph is of a young man in a group as his eyes unexpectedly meet the camera– a quick look into a sincere moment of daily life as captured by Gomez. More than ridicule stereotypes, What Tribe? presents the works of talented artists like Gomez who strive to perfect their medium, irrelevant of any designation as “Native”, proving that these artists will have the last say in who they are.
A list of artists featured in the show:
Eriberto Oriol / Photographer – Los Angeles, CA
Mike Miller / Photographer – Los Angeles, CA
Lyncia Begay / Painter – Flagstaff, AZ
Rye Purvis / Painter – San Francisco, CA
Sam Gomez / Photographer – Phoenix, AZ
Thomas Breeze Marcus / Painter – Phoenix, AZ
Werewulf Micah Wesley / Painter – Norman, OK
Jasmin Rosales / Photographer – Norman, OK
Brandan Odums / Painter – New Orleans, LA
Jonathan Nelson / Artist – Santa Fe, NM
Luke Dorsett / Photographer – Phoenix, AZ via Japan
Douglas Miles / Mixed Media Artist – San Carlos, AZ