Native American women artists are constantly tugging at a tangle of identities, all while others are pulling on them just as hard. These identities—Native American, Woman, Artist— struggle in one body to express themselves “authentically,” against and toward privacy, against and toward openness. On the outside, however, others flatten the identity of Natives as stoic, wise warriors with elaborate headdresses. Or even flatter to long braids, tan-skin. The confluence of a Cheyenne Lakota cowboy father and artist mother, Cannupa Hanska Luger produced a series in 2013 titled and expressing just that: "Stereotype: Misconceptions of the Native American" in Figure 1 features boom box sculptures decked out in feathers and braids. Two imposed identities, or stereotypes, converge and challenge one another’s identities then in the performance part of the piece, the object is destroyed. Within the framework of Gloria Anzaldúa’s theory of the borderlands, the theory Anzaldúa calls the “mestiza consciousness” (7), interpreting these artists’ work becomes an insight into who they are. Though this could be said of white artists, male artists, all artists, the selected work of some of the most prominent Native women artists reveals an identity with more contradictions all tied to a culture rooted deeper than any U.S. culture. It’s work that’s not just a product or a part of their identity; it is a tool in untangling themselves and tangling the stereotypes imposed upon them.
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Women's Studies
Dee, Amanda, "Tripping on All the Faces: The Identity Work of Native American Women Artists" (2016). Joyce Durham Essay Contest in Women's and Gender Studies. 19.