KCET Discusses Problematic Stereotypes of Native American Art

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Gerald Clarke Jr.
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Gerald Clarke is featured in an article by Sarah Linn

The following are excerpts from the article.

“The idea of the Indian and my daily reality were polar opposites”

“I joke that when people see my artwork in galleries, they go, 'Well, wait a minute. Where's the Indian stuff?'” said Clarke, who won the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art in 2007. “They don't understand [that] it's not just a material or a format; it's more of an outlook on life.”

In fact, he said, “The stereotype or the image of Indian art is just as problematic as the stereotype of the person. When people think 'Indian art,' they think of materials, really — beads or clay or leather.”

Although Clarke taps into those artistic traditions, his wide-ranging repertoire encompasses everything from painting to sculpture to installation art. His series “One Tract Mind,” for instance, uses video and photography to explore the subject of tract housing in Southern California.

“I always tell people my medium is kitchen sink. It's anything I can get my hands on, that I can manipulate or do something with that will teach me something new,” Clarke said, adding that he prefers methods and materials that are easily accessible to viewers.

“What I do is I use ready-made objects — and those already-cemented stereotypes — as vehicles to engage people,” he explained. “It's not a matter of me dumbing down my message at all. It's using things that are readily apparent or comforting to see, in order to get people to engage in the work.”

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