Visualities: Perspectives on Contemporary American Indian Film and Art

Feb 9th, 2012 | By | Category: 23-3: Technology and Culture, Media Reviews

VISUALITIES: PERSPECTIVES ON CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN INDIAN FILM AND ARTEdited by Denise K. Cummings
Michigan State University Press (2011)

Review by Ryan Winn

The past decade witnessed the publication of numerous brilliant and thought-provoking texts concerning contemporary American Indian film and art. But none are as ambitious in scope and depth as Visualities: Perspectives on Contemporary American Indian Film and Art.

The first part of the text reads as if a gathering of American Indian film critics and historians took up residence in a reading cove and explained why aspects of their respective film scholarship are both profound and revolutionary.

The essays discuss how films such as Imprint, It Starts With a Whisper, Skins, Smoke Signals, and The Business of Fancydancing resist Western simplifications of Indigenous narratives. They ultimately challenge viewers to consider Native presence and self-representation in a medium that has traditionally limited Native individuality.

The second part of the text illuminates the potency of contemporary American Indian visual artists’ works and their contributions to their respective mediums. Fans of Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, Eric Gansworth, and Larry McNeil, whose work is featured on the text’s cover, will rejoice as the artists’ works are illuminated and their messages of self-definition are amplified.

Ryan Winn is the Humanities Department chair at College of Menominee Nation in Keshena and Green Bay, WI.

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