Essentially Indigenous?

Contemporary Native Arts Symposium


Thursday, May 5 – Friday, May 6, 2011

Diker Pavilion, George Gustav Heye Center

National Museum of the American Indian

One Bowling Green, New York City


In the past, many discussions about Native art have focused mostly on the identity of the artist. While Indian identity has a place in the ongoing dialogue about Native art, our intention for this symposium is to break new ground by focusing on the art. What is it about a work of art by a Native artist that makes it Native? Iconography, subject matter, or aesthetic sensibility? Is it a relationship to land or ties to traditional art forms? Is there something essential we can or should define?


Registration is free. Go to and click “Register for this event” under the photo for the program announcement.




8:15–9:00 a.m.


Diker Pavilion Lobby


9:00 a.m.

Welcome and Opening Remarks


Kathleen Ash-Milby » National Museum of the American Indian

Mario A. Caro » Massachusetts Institute of Technology


9:15 a.m.

Keynote Address


The Aesthetic of Disappearance

Robert Houle, artist, scholar, and curator » Toronto, Canada


10:00–10:45 a.m.

Session One


Essential Images: On the Critical Production and Reception of Contemporary Native Art

Chair: Mario A. Caro


David Garneau » University of Regina

Necessary Essentialism and Contemporary Aboriginal Art


Will Wilson » Santa Fe, New Mexico

Indigenous Visuality as Strategic Essentialism within Contemporary Indigenous Art Practice


Andrea Geyer » New School

Spiral Lands: Un-learning Visual Regimes


Devorah Romanek » British Museum

Re-framed Essentialism: Native American Artists and Historic Images


10:45–11:00 a.m.

Coffee Break

Diker Pavilion Lobby


11:00 a.m. –12:15 p.m.

Session One Continued


12:15–1:30 p.m.

Lunch break—on your own


1:30–3:15 p.m.

Session Two


Essential Place: The Relationship between Native Art and Place

Co-Chairs: Kathleen Ash-Milby and Gerald McMaster, Art Gallery of Ontario


Gloria Bell » School for Advanced Research

Meditations on Place: Métis Artistic Expressions in Virtual and Physical Landscapes


Suzanne Morrissette » Ontario College of Art & Design University

Stories of Place and Knowledge: Writing Home and RESERVE(d)


Lisa Seppi » State University of New York at Oswego

Essential Difference? Or Situational Essence? The Genealogy of Land, Abstraction, and Spirituality in the Art of Kay WalkingStick


Julie Nagam » Ontario College of Art & Design University

(Re) imaging the Living Archive through the Performed Interventions of Rebecca Belmore


3:15–3:30 p.m.

Coffee Break

Diker Pavilion Lobby


3:30–4:15 p.m.

Respondent and Discussion

Ute Meta Bauer » Massachusetts Institute of Technology


5:30 p.m.

Curator’s Tour

Tipi: Heritage of the Great Plains » Brooklyn Museum

(Free for participants)




8:15–9:00 a.m.


Diker Pavilion Lobby


9:00 a.m.


Kathleen Ash-Milby


9:15–10:45 a.m.

Session Three

Blood Memory: Indigenous Genealogies and Imagined Truths

Chair: Nancy Marie Mithlo » University of Wisconsin-Madison


Dylan Miner » Michigan State University

Against Hybridity: An Indigenist Provocation on Contemporary Art


Sean Teuton » University of Wisconsin-Madison

Native Literature, Native Art, and How There Might Be Memory in the Blood


Rachel Harris » Concordia University

Of God, Guns, and Government: Reforming the Non-Inuit Subject Position in the Work of Annie Pootoogook and the Kinngait Avant-Garde


10:45–11:00 a.m.

Coffee Break

Diker Pavilion Lobby


11:00a.m. –1:00 p.m.

Session Four


Indigenous Aesthetic Paradigms: Community and the Artist

Chair: Robert Jahnke » Te Putahi a Toi, The School of Maori Studies


Miranda Belarde-Lewis » University of Washington

A:shiwi Aesthetics: Defining Ourselves


Anna-Marie White, curator »Nelson, New Zealand

Good Mãori, Bad Mãori: Connoisseurship and Contemporary Mãori art


Natalie Ball » Chiloquin, Oregon

Circa Indian


Nicholas Galanin, artist » Sitka, Alaska

I Killed an Indian


1:00–1:45 p.m.

Respondent and Discussion

Jolene Rickard » Cornell University


1:45 p.m.

Closing Remarks


2:00–3:00 p.m.


Diker Pavilion Lobby




2:00 p.m.



Seeing Indigenous: Indigenous Art and Media Arts on Film


Fred Meyers » New York University

Stephen Gilchrist » National Gallery of Victoria

Mario A. Caro


(Diker Pavilion)