at myths ;
Wiping Hollywood l stereotypes of arrow- shooting injuns from the historical map is a ground—breaking show of photographs by Native Americans. Kathleen Morgan speaks to its curator, a man determined to destroy the Western myth.
New York artist Jesse Cooday has no doubts where his roots lie — even if Hollywood has consistently got it wrong. Like generations of fellow Native Americans, he has lived with images ofaggressive. scalp-slicing Redskins. touted by the movie industry. His aim is to bury those stereotypes and by bringing an exhibition of work by Native American photographers to Scotland. he is helping to dojust that. In partnership with Glasgow's Street
This was to be no Dances With Wolves escapade. The only directors and stars of this show were to be authentic Native Americans.
Level gallery and prominent Native American activist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Cooday has gathered together the work of about twenty photographers for a startling show, Positives And Negatives. Like Cooday. these artists know the truth behind the feathers and warpaint — they have inherited some of the diverse cultures and histories of North America‘s 300 Native American nations. Through their own often ironic photographic
Richard Poafpybitty. Comanche-Omaha-ltations, by Jeffrey M. Thomas
images, they are blowing to pieces the Hollywood legacy imposed on them.
After months of agitating and coordinating by Cooday, Smith and Street Level‘s Martha McCulloch, the work has been brought from all over America to Glasgow. Cooday has overseen it all the way — McCulloch was determined the exhibition was to be curated by Native Americans. to avoid the pitfalls of outsidersjudging and interpreting the work. This was to be no Dances Wit/t Wolves escapade. The only directors and stars of this show were to be authentic Native Americans.
With only one hour's sleep since arriving in Britain from New York, Cooday is surveying the photographs as they are laid out at Street Level. It is an important moment for both him and McCulloch. This is the ﬁrst European showing of this work and Street Level‘s ﬁrst exhibition since moving to its King Street premises. In the comer of the
gallery stands Cooday's own work. Marlboro Man. Inspired by Andy Warhol, the silk-screen work is an ironic take on the popular image of the Red Indian — at its base lies a traditional Paciﬁc North West mask, but it is crowned by a cowboy hat and its lips are curled round a cigarette, not a peace pipe.
Marlboro Man is Cooday‘s reaction to being force-fed B-movie images of stereotypical ‘Red lndians' played by white actors. from John Wayne to Audrey Hepburn. ‘It says: “Experience the great North West. the lost frontier“.‘ explains Cooday. wryly.
Besides photographs. the exhibition will feature a nine-minute excerpt from a ﬁlm by Beverly Singer. Cooday speaks proudly of Native Americans like Singer taking up the ﬁlth camera and relaying their own histories. lives and hopes. ‘This will show ﬁlm makers starting to make their presence felt on the screen — our versions of Pulp Fiction director Tarantino.‘ says
Marlboro Man: An ironic take on the American dream, by Jesse Cooday
Cooday. ‘In our life time. we are going to see movies produced and directed by
Native Americans. It‘s going to change the whole conception.‘
The use of photography and tnore recently ﬁlm by Native Americans to reclaim their cultural and personal heritage is highly appropriate. given these tools have traditionally been used to misrepresent them. The ﬁrst moving pictures of Indians were tnade by Thomas Edison in 1894 — they were soon to became the food of penny arcades. By the I920s, the Western was becoming a money-spinning staple of Hollywood. More than 2000 Hollywood features later. the genre survives with blockbusting movies like Last OfThe Mo/titrans and Dances With Wolves.
For Cooday. a member of the Alaskan nation of Tling, Positives And Negatives is a step. however small. towards destroying the myth-making machine. He emphasises that his
Marlboro Man is Cooday’s reaction to being force-fed 8- movie images of stereotypical ‘Bed lndians’ played by white
actors, from John Wayne to Audrey Hepburn.
culture has survived the onslaught which began with Christopher Colombus — ‘our monster" — and continues with powerful media stereotypes. Until relatively recently. his heritage was passed from generation to generation simply by storytelling and artistic traditions. He and other artists are now embracing technology, with the Native American struggle entering cyberspace.
Cooday has no illusions about the difﬁculties in recovering the Native American identity. ‘The battle is going to be long and hard.‘ he says. Positives And Negatives is one large foot in the door Positives And Negatives is at Street Level. Glasgow until 6 May. Exhibition tours for group visitors are organised by appointment.
Former Glasgow art school buddies Alastair Gray and Alastair Taylor are exhibiting together in an show underpinned by emotion. Taylor’s paintings of wilderness scenes were produced in the months before and after his wife’s death from cancer, while Gray’s work spans his artistic career. Here, Taylor explains the feelings behind his intense images and speaks of his friendship with Gray.
Alasdair Taylor (left) and Alasdair Gray
‘My work is of the European tradition - it’s not Scottish views of Loch Lomond. It is difficult, for the simple reason I went to Denmark to follow my beloved years ago. I had been painting self portraits and all the stuff I had learned at art school. One day l was walking by a lake and saw plants refracted in the water. I realised I was stuck in the 19th century.
‘These are not abstractions, these are inscapes. I live in the wilderness and the wilderness feeds me. So much of painting is about academia. It’s like sheep following each other. I must go with the flow of something fresh, not dead.
‘The work I was doing before, it was as if I knew my wife was going to die. I had thought it was all about Sarajevo and human suffering, but it was about my beloved being slowly crucified and me having to watch her every day. After she died, I didn’t know how I’d survive. We spent 36 years together in this isolated place. After so many years, it’s like you’re split in half. You’ve learned from each other and grown together.
‘Women seem to understand suffering. I remember the first day we learned she was going to die. There were tears springing from her eyes, but they were for me, not her.
‘Alasdair Gray and I are polar opposites. He is such a good craftsman and such a genius in so many ways. We love each other. I have a vague memory of years ago — he was painting a mural in a church out Hiddrie direction. He would work on it day after day, month after month. The congregation would get paint in their eyes. He would even sleep under it. He is like Michelangelo.
‘He phoned me the other day and said: “What colour are your eyes?” I looked in the mirror and they were red. I said I couldn’t remember and then, that they were green. He said: “That will do.” [The exhibition includes a colour portrait of Taylor by Gray}. (Kathleen Morgan)
Alasdair and Alasdair is at the HS Gallery, Glasgow until 24 April.
The List 7-20 Apr l995 65