As we wind down the year, we thought it was a good time to show off some of the amazing works of art acquired by the Art Museum in 2014. Over the next 10 days, we’ll highlight an artwork or group of artworks that became part of the SLAM collection this year. None of these acquisitions would be possible without the support of Members, donors, and the people of St. Louis. Thank you!
In her Four Seasons series of self-portraits, artist Wendy Red Star presents a bold antidote to the depiction of Native American culture in museums. In each photograph, the artist puts herself in a diorama setting that is visually stunning but, upon closer inspection, remarkably artificial.
Raised on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, Red Star’s work explores popular depictions of Native Americans and the intersection of tradition and contemporary life. Her 2006 Four Seasons series explores serious themes, but it does so with a hefty dose of wit.
“The Four Seasons series is a remark on everything being constructed and fake except me and my culture,” Red Star said. “This is the beauty of the series, the confusion of stereotypes, where the lines begin to blur from truth/reality. I just happen to fit into that slippery slope well.”
Last spring, Jill Ahlberg Yohe, the museum’s former assistant curator of Native American art, described Red Star’s technique in an acquisition proposal:
With insight and with humor, she reclaims the presentation of community and self. Red Star faces the camera and pushes through the surface, encouraging viewers to experience a moment of revelation. Red Star addresses both continuity and changes in Native aesthetics. She incorporates regalia that she and her family have crafted into her artworks that boldly confront non-Native presentations of Native peoples. Red Star’s choice to integrate traditional aspects of Crow art, such as the elk-tooth dress, moccasins, hair ornaments, and bag into a contemporary “fine art” vocabulary of self-portraiture and photography reveal an artist gifted in many artistic spheres.
The series rotates regularly in Gallery 322, which also includes a small installation of traditional Crow art curated by Red Star. Our installation schedule is somewhat behind the solstice, so you can see Fall through Sunday, December 28, when it will be replaced by Winter.