Today many of the things we read about can be found through new technology and though social media outlets. This new technology has allowed everyone to be able to communicate and read from anywhere. Although we have new technology we still communicate in the oldest form of books. The ancient art of book making has intrigue many artists into taking the book form and creating new purposes and concepts for books.
Artists have been taking these books off the shelf and questioning the content contained in them. Native Americans have often questioned books since being introduced to them in the early 1900s. Historical and anthropological books have contributed to several notions of the Indigenous people in America being only and always primitive. Artist Nicohlas Galanin, believes this to be false and is dismantling the history of false narratives or misleading themes of the identity of Indigenous Peoples of America.
Nicholas Galanin, Tlingit artist from Sitka Alaska, comes from a long line of artists. His art discusses the balance between his origins and the course of his practice through different topics within Indigenous community to bring them into discussion. He is a multi-disciplinary artist who earned his BFA at London Guildhall University in England and his MFA from Massey University in New Zealand. His work has been in shown all over the world.
Galanin series titled, What Have We Become 2006 was inspired by and experience he had while being interviewed for his first exhibition in 2004 Totems to Turquoise. This interaction made him question and think about the expectations that non-Natives have over Native American Art. “He is interested in where information about indigenous peoples comes from, the legitimacy of their portrayal in scholarly literature, and the validity of interpretations from people who are not from the culture” (Feeney, 2006 )
What Have We Become 2006, consists of blank sheets and pages from nineteenth-century anthropological books. He understands the importance of literature and the documentation of such books but his sculptures address the politics of cultural representation and contemporary Indigenous identity (Swan, 2007). Many books about Native Americans and history inform the reader that these people lived in the past and were also written from a foreign concept. In these forms they become bias and one-sided, which holds restrictions and sets up stereotypes.
“I have found myself reading Western literature, often written from a foreign perspective, in which my culture has been digested and recycled back to me,” Galanin states in an interview (Swan, 2007). These sculptural books of the What Have We Become series have been carved into, hand cut and laser engraved. This series of exploring book binding and his foundational skills in traditional Tlingit art I find very intriguing. Nicholas Galanin’s art was recently part of the broken box pod cast show in Santa Fe, NM. He is a very important artist in Contemporary Native American Art.
Beat Nation: Hip hop as Indigenous Culture. http://www.beatnation.org/nicholas-galanin.html
Broken Boxes. Episode 22. Interview with Nicholas Galanin. Dec. 21, 2014.
Feeney, Stephanie. FOCUS- Nicholas Galanin: Multi-disciplinary Artist and Musician. Native American Art Council https://portlandartmuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/NAAC-FOCUS-June-2016.pdf
Swan, Kristin. Recent Acquisitions: Nicholas Galanin What, Have We Become? Vol3 & 5A http://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/explore/news/recent-acquisitions-nicholas-galanin-what-have-we-become-vol-3-5a-2007