“God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart forever; the vulture the very creature he creates.” Herman Melville, “Moby Dick” Chapter XLIV, The Chart [The Map].
I am a creature of Academia, of the art historical survey of 30,000 years of “Western Culture,” another “Modern Prometheus,” a Frankenstein’s Monster whose creator looks on him in such horror that she chains The Creature to a rock to have his entrails plucked by birds of prey for all eternity.
Pocahontas is The First Assimilated Indian. As is always the case, it cost Pocahontas her life, as it has cost me mine. I am Cree. The ‘Canadian Indian’ is a travesty; in Canadian society, I am the ‘Other,’ an Art Brut[e], the ‘Noble Savage,’ but in the Painting Studio, an assimilated Indigenous person, in that I do not make “Native Art,” as that is commonly understood by the General Public, but work from within the Western Cultural canon: Prometheus Unbound, trying to reconcile the irreconcilable parts of myself. In this way, and in spite of it, my work is a manifestation of Survivance: an act of authentic Indigenous culture in the face of relentless societal pressure, the Post-modern Prometheus, the Assimilated Aboriginal, No Land’s Man.
In this discourse, Indigenous Peoples refers to Treaty Indians, those individuals who are members of First Nations who made Treaties with the Crown of England over most of the territory in Canada, simply, “Indians.” This distinction is important in that the word “Indian” is multi-purpose, a racist slur, a historical signifier, and a legal finding with standing in Canadian and American law.
Therefore, I am an Indian artist. I create images of the injustices that Indigenous Peoples experience. I also make images of beautiful people. For what is more beautiful in all creation than a human being? And more ugly? To paraphrase Gaugin, pretty can never be beautiful, but ugly can.