case studyart

due 6.19 12am
Watch the those video 1 artist per lectured covered
Week 9:

Week 10:

Week 11:

Week 12:

Most of require video information, only a few for reading!
Read the reading I upload 1 reading per lecture covered
Week 9:
Hill, Happens to Be Native American.
Week 10:
Week 11:
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Please write an essay, 3-4 page double-spaced pages in length,
that makes links and connections between the material we have
covered in the past seven weeks (Week 9-12) and responds to
the following questions: What have you learned from the first part
of this class that you would like to take with you into the future?
How has this class/material helped you shape or reshape your
perspective on your own work as an artist, art historian, art
educator, art therapist, or art administrator?
Your essay should include a reference to
• 1 artist per lectured covered
• 1 reading per lecture covered
• 1 (or more) example of the mechanics of colonialism: Ex: the
settler art world/museum system, dispossession,
appropriation, the anthropological or modernist gaze, etc.
• OPTIONAL: The disciplinary apparatus of the class: What
have you’ve learned about art history and / writing research
papers, reading museum labels, the assignments
(collaborative exhibitions or paper assignments), etc.
Let your paper be guided by Gerald Vizenor’s idea of
“survivance,” meaning for every example where you cite the
operations of a colonial mechanism, be sure to follow up with a
consideration of how Native artists found ingenious ways to
“renounc[e] domination, tragedy and victimry.”
Survivance is an active sense of presence, the continuance of
native stories, not a mere reaction, or a survivable name. Native
survivance stories are renunciations of dominance, tragedy and
— Gerald Vizenor
You will be graded on your ability to be specific. For example,
discuss a specific aspect of the history we have discussed (the
effects of tourism, the railroad, and the introduction of market
capitalism in the Southwest), or objects from specific nations
(kwakwaka’wakw transformation masks) not “Pacific Northwest
culture” generally. Be sure to elaborate on what is relevant,
interesting, memorable, or meaningful to you. Also, be sure to
give a solid description and interpretation of this specific aspect
or object as well as discussing how it fits into the worldview and /
nation of the group who made it.
No need for a works cited page or bibliography! Instead, use in-
line citations or parenthetical notations to reference your source.
Examples of In-line citations: In the essay, “Andean Translations,”
Macarena Gomez-Barris writes ___ In the Pacific Northwest
lecture, Risa said ___; In the online exhibition from Week 3, ___
wrote about ___ and shared ___
Examples of Parenthetical Notation: (Gomez-Barris, “Andean
Translations,” p. 4).

Dyani White Hawk

essay by 

Candice Hopkins
2014/15 McKnight Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists
Wičháȟpi Wakíŋyaŋ Wíŋyaŋ (Thunder Star Woman), 48” x 48”, acrylic on canvas, 2015
The Ties That Bind Us: The Painting and
Printmaking of Dyani White Hawk
Candice Hopkins
Dyani White Hawk’s paintings oftentimes
appear stitched together. These threads, both
representational and metaphorical, are
sometimes loose and tenuous; at other times
they are stretched taught. The brushwork in her
paintings has replicated quillwork, beadwork,
and the woven designs of Navajo textiles. It is
this act of stitching, piercing, or binding different
elements together via paint and printmaking that
draws attention to the artist’s personal history,
what she describes as a “careful balancing act
of often-competing value systems and
aesthetics.”1 The competing value systems she
references are those of Modern and Native
American art, history, and aesthetic practices—
each of which informs her practice. These
practices, as she is quick to point out, are not
mutually exclusive: they are contingent,
entangled, and relational. 

It was while White Hawk was a graduate
student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
that she started to see relationships between
Native and Modern art. White Hawk received her
undergraduate education at tribal colleges,
Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence,
Kansas, and the Institute for American Indian
Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When she moved
to Madison and was fully thrust into Western art
history and practices, these congruencies began
to reveal themselves to her. One example she
cites, which has found its way into her recent
paintings, is the striking similarity between the
rich, saturated colors of striped Navajo blankets
and the similarly rich color field paintings of
painters like Mark Rothko.

The aesthetic correspondences White
Hawk uncovered are not entirely coincidental.
Throughout the development of Modern art,
artists found inspiration in things from outside
their own culture (aside from formal or aesthetic
appreciation, these were often things that they
knew very little about). Jackson Pollack was
infamously inspired by Navajo sand paintings
(paintings that are traditionally composed on the
ground—it is this action of painting that is
credited for the development of his “unique”
style). Pablo Picasso collected objects from
different African and Northwest Coast Native
nations (it is no surprise that the faces of his
cubist figures appear fractured and masklike, as
though he had absorbed the so-called primitive
style). The surrealists, particularly André Breton,
were great collectors of the carvings of
indigenous people (for them, these things
represented the unconscious and the
communing with spiritual life they found lacking
in their own society during the rise of the
industrial age). Even Marcel Duchamp amassed
an enviable assortment of masks—although
Duchamp was critical of understanding these
objects solely as art as this ignored the ways that
these objects functioned in their originating

In the United States, the complex
relationship between Modern art and the
aesthetic practices of artists depreciatively
deemed “pre-modern” or “primitive” was most
famously put forth in the 1989 exhibition Affinities
of the Tribal and the Modern at New York’s
Museum of Modern Art. Placing non-Western
objects alongside the works of Modern artists
was an attempt to justify a formal affinity between
them. More than anything, it served to expose
the irreconcilable and irreducible differences
between them. The complexities, histories, and
ideologies that shaped these other objects were
quite purposefully lost in translation. “It is after
all, the vocation of the modern art museum to
decontextualize,” Hal Foster has astutely
observed. “The museum is but one final stage in
a series of abstractions of power—knowledge
plays that [together] constitute primitivism.”3
What none of the influential thinkers or texts
critical of the problematic ways that non-Western
objects were absorbed into the narrative of
Modern art anticipate is the rise of indigenous,
African, Pacific (Oceanic) contemporary artists
now, and in turn, their increasing impact on the
way their work as well as traditional practices
from their communities are contextualized. The
idea of multiple modernities has emerged in the
past decade as a way to expand the rather
narrow confines of Modern art history; artists are
also coming to bear upon these histories, White
Hawk among them. 

The lithograph print Understanding II is
awash with symbols, numbers, and signs—
snippets of lined ledger texts with values
inscribed, clusters of Lakota crosses, the
outlines of tipis, medicine wheels, replications of
ancient representations of human figures, loose
sheets of paper, a trail of horse hoof prints, a
thunderbird, a vintage leather shoe, the toe of an
embellished moccasin, and running along the
bottom left of the paper, outlines of city
skyscrapers encroaching onto the picture plane.
Looping through the image are threadlike lines—
some look like strings of quills or stitches of
beads—and in the background are more lines, in
light blue, like horizons or perhaps rivers. The
images are not ordered like they would be in a
Lakota waniyetu wowapi, or winter count—
symbols drawn originally on animal hides as a
way of marking important events over the course
of a year, from first snowfall to first snowfall—but
their repetition is certainly a nod to this practice.
Understanding II is instead a highly personal
record, a rendering of what the twenty-first
century looks like through the eyes of a Lakota
woman. It is also something of a proposition,
demonstrating the coming together of different
knowledge systems and modes of inscribing
history, and as the looming appearance of
skyscrapers suggests, the ever-accelerating
crush of Western-American culture, capital, and
urban life. 

The words “Rosebud Indian Land Sale,
December 5, 1929,” are emblazoned across the
top of a yellowed piece of newspaper. The paper
is the background for another lithograph print,
Understanding II, 22.75″ x 17.25″, 4 color lithography
print, Edition of 15, 2013
titled Trust and Loss. White Hawk discovered the
original piece of newspaper by chance. When
researching Lakota objects in the collection of a
museum, she noticed something stuffed inside a
tobacco bag. When she pulled out the small
square of paper and unfolded it, she was
immediately taken aback: there in her hands was
a list of the traditional lands sold from her
people. The moment is a reminder of the
sentience of the past, how it can reach out and
take hold of you in the present. Overlaid on top
of the document is the reproduction of a large
red-and-white beaded X. The X has two
immediate connotations. The mark was
frequently used in place of a personal signature
in treaties and other legally binding documents
between Native people and government officials.
When treaties were first struck, many Native
people did not sign their names in English. This
practice also led to gross misunderstandings;
when documents were orally translated into
Native languages, there were inevitably
mistranslations. In the end what was recorded on
paper was oftentimes very different from what
was spoken aloud. For Lakota people this
symbol—of two mirrored triangles, similar to the
shape of an X—is deeply resonant. A complex
conceptual symbol, it represents “the mirroring
of the worlds”—the skyworld and the earthworld.
It also signifies interrelatedness, the necessity to
exist in harmony and in balance with one another
and the natural world. The X in Trust and Loss is
a salient reminder of what was signed away: with
the loss of land, there is the inevitable loss of
culture as well. 

White Hawk describes her work as a mix of
Modern abstract painting and Lakota abstract
symbols. As the print Trust and Loss indicates, it
is important to note the distinction between
abstraction in the modern sense and in the
Lakota sense. While a Lakota symbol might
appear abstract to those outside the culture,
from those inside the culture it is deeply
resonant. It is this gap—the distance between
different cultures, histories, and aesthetic
traditions—where White Hawk’s work oscillates.
In certain works, the gap is so wide you could
lose yourself in it; in others, it is so slim that it
takes a trained eye to identify. Like this
generative gap, what is not represented is as
important as what is represented. Sections of the
designs replicating porcupine quillwork are
deliberatively left without color. For the artist, this,
combined with the lost land plots, is a way to call
attention to the “trust relationship” that is meant
to exist between the federal government and
tribal nations with regard to land. “This piece
Trust and Loss, 29.75″ x 22.25″, 4 color lithography print,
Edition of 15, 2013

Master’s Study II, 30″ x 22.5″, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2013
Master’s Study, 48″ x 48″ acrylic and oil on canvas, 2011
speaks to the loss of culture that is inherent with
the loss of land. It also speaks to the loss of trust
between governments and people.”5 Master’s
Study and Master’s Study II comment on how
“Native artists are not recognized in the pool of
‘masters’ in academia, yet many western
‘masters’ took influence from Native art forms.”6
The paintings, which replicate the expertly
woven Navajo chiefs’ blankets, recognize “the
mastery of composition and the agency of some
of our ‘masters’ works.”7 To those unfamiliar with
Native art, these works might be perceived as
only an extension of the lineage of stripe and
color field painters; to those familiar with Native
art, they are clearly painted representations of
Navajo weavings. They do something else as
well: through the act of exposing this gap, they
begin to remedy it.
White Hawk’s paintings challenge the blind
spots of art history. True to Lakota ideology, this
challenge is founded in beauty and tradition.
Been Seeing You for Awhile Now, Dream, and
Canté Skuya (Sweetheart) each represent either
one or two toes of embellished moccasins. The
moccasin tops emerge from the bottom of the
picture plane like the peaks of mountains. In
each case, the beaded, quilled, and
embroidered forms are the most ornate aspect of
the compositions. That they are removed from
any other signs of the body emphasizes the
formal qualities of the moccasin tops; these three
paintings are yet another experiment in
perception. On one hand, the moccasins are
appreciated for their beauty; on the other, they
establish a presence and quite literally step into
the picture plane to stand between the impulse
to appreciate these images only as abstract
compositions. These paintings, like all of White
Hawk’s works, are a testament to how the
continuance of traditions and the very presence
of Native American people today are forms of
The painted lines in White Hawk’s works
serve as a reminder of how stitches are also
sutures, the threads that close up a wound. This
is not to imply that the genocide that was the
conquest of the Americas, the imperial gestures
that operate today in the form of broken treaties,
the industry that runs full throttle on and near
Indian reservations (coal mining, uranium mining,
forestry, hydroelectric projects, nuclear plants,
and so on), the traumatic residue of boarding
school experiences, contemporary social and
economic injustices, and so on can and should
be reconciled. The first step is to acknowledge
them. White Hawk’s works also take another, less
obvious path and expose subtle injustices, the
perilous biases lodged within art history forged
within the definitions of mastery, and the unequal
power relations implicit in the appropriation of
aesthetic forms.
Cante’ Skuya (Sweetheart), 24″ x 30″, acrylic on canvas, 2012
1. Cited from an undated artist’s statement by
White Hawk published online at; accessed 20 June
2. As Duchamp perceptively stated in an
interview, “There isn’t any society without art
because those who look at it say so. I’m sure that
the people who made wooden spoons in the
Congo, which we admire so much in the Musée
de l’Homme, do not make them so that they can
be admired by the Congolese. . . . It is we who
have given the name ‘art’ to religious things. . . .
We have created it for our sole and unique use;
it’s a little like masturbation. I don’t believe in the
essential aspect of art. One could create a
society that rejects art”; Pierre Cabanne,
Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp (London:
Thames and Hudson, 1971).
3. Hal Foster, “The ‘Primitive’ Unconscious of
Modern Art,” October 34 (Autumn, 1985): 47.
4. Cited from an undated artist’s description of
the paintings published online at; accessed 23 June
5. Cited from an undated artist’s description of
the paintings published online at; accessed 20 June
6. Ibid.
The McKnight Artist Fellowships for Visual Artists
is generously funded by The McKnight
Foundation and administered by the Minneapolis
College of Art and Design.
To learn more about the McKnight Visual Artists
Fellowship please visit







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