The Map(ing) project, established in 2009, is a biennial event that investigates the personal and cultural histories of Native American and Indigenous artists. Each year five artists are invited to work collaboratively with graduate students from ASU’s School of Art (SOA) Printmaking program, nationally ranked fifth in the country. Over a ten-day period collaborative teams create an editioned print exploring the works’ meaning, content, and symbolism. The project also features a public exhibition and moderated public forum that engages participants and audience with contemporary Native artistic practices. Together we generate new forms of knowledge by using printmaking and visual story telling for the sharing of culture, place, language, and identity.
It is not necessary that the invited artists have any printmaking experience; in fact, it is my preference that they do not, positioning my graduate students as the experts in regards to process and technique. However, the invited artists do have a strong artistic vision and a willingness to work as a collaborator in an educational setting. The Map(ing) artists have a range of creative practices, ages, and tribal affiliations and education. Each artist is accomplished in their discipline and dedicated to their studio practice, which often stems from traditional craft forms. Each artist brings a wealth of experience to the printmaking studios by approaching the new medium with confidence and inquiry, allowing new forms of knowledge and creative outcomes to be discovered.
Oral, written and discursive histories, moral philosophy, religion, cultural studies, identity of person and place, and language are central to the Map(ing) project. Map(ing) artists use a visual language, coupled with oral and written testament, to produce works which transcend the boundaries of history and heritage, geography, and tribal affiliation to become part of public and critical discourses of the present and the future. In the 19th and early 20th centuries Native arts were reduced to creating crafts mostly targeting the tourist trade, while loosing focus on traditional crafts and artistic cultural practices of documentation such as seasonal counts on hides and ledger art. Issues of authenticity, identity formation, marginalization, and commodification have since become central to Native artists’ creative practice; creating new work with postmodern themes for the fine art market. Take for example the work of Steven Yazzie, (Dine), Map(ing) alumni 2009. Yazzie’s print, “Tsosido Sweep Dancer”, uses the photogravure process to challenge the authenticity of 19th century photogravure representations of Native Peoples by creating a fictitious character and staging a false ceremony in the image. Yazzie calls into question the dominant cultural script to reclaim it. Artists who are fully conscious of their separation from mainstream ideologies as a modern condition are creating some of the most innovative and interesting art.
Each artist’s work tells a story of culture and place that is not static but reflects constantly changing circumstances that are influenced by events beyond their control. Contemporary Native artists are keenly aware of the balance between honoring traditions and making work that is uniquely their own. Images are comprised of a visual language that is informed from oral traditions within the tribe, popular culture, and/or personal histories. C. Maxx Stevens (Seminole/Mvscogee), Map(ing) 2013 artist, describes her work as “a way to explore my individual and collective identity, a way to share belief, philosophy, a world, a past, family, and culture”.
Critical dialog flourishes during the collaborative experience between artist and student, with the public during a public exhibition and moderated public forum, and between scholars and artists while discussing the works’ symbolic significance. The exhibition and public forum are held at the Night Gallery in the Tempe Marketplace (NG/TM), a highly trafficked pedestrian mall with 1000+ visitors per week.
Ten of the limited edition of original prints became property of the artists to sell for their personal profit. Prints from the edition became part of the permanent print collection at the ASU Art Museum and the School of Art archive as well as gifted to the assisting graduate students, artists sponsors, and an exchanged among the participating artists.
In addition to public events Map(ing) prints are archived at the ASU Art Museum (ASUAM), Print Study Room. These prints and are available for scholars, curators, students, and the public to review and include in their own research projects. To date Map(ing) archive prints have been included in several exhibitions at ASUAM including “Self Referential: Art Looking at Art”, “I Never Saw So Clearly”, and “Just Animals”. Additionally, Map(ing) prints are scheduled to be included in 2012 and 2013 exhibitions at ASUAM. Map(ing) prints have also been included in exhibitions such as “Outsiders Within” at the Tempe Center for the Arts, at the Berlin Gallery in the Heard Museum in Phoenix and the Zuni & Hopi Arts Show 2011, in Osaka, Japan.
Ahkima Honyumptewa (Hopi), Map(ing) 2011 alumni, and Jason Garcia, Map(ing) 2009 alumni, were both awarded “Best of Division” at the Indian Market at the Heard Museum for their Map(ing) prints. As a result Ahkima’s work is gaining international attention and his prints have been added to collections in Japan, France, and Germany. Notable too is the lasting impact on the individual lives of the artists who have participated in Map(ing). Wanesia Misquadace (Fond-du-Lac/Objibway), Map(ing) 2011 alumni, and Jason Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo), both were inspired to pursue their MFA degrees after participating in Map(ing) and both received the prestigious American Indian Chancellor’s Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the intention of becoming future educators.
~ Mary Hood, project director