Varying Perspectives on the Role of Barriers

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Varying Perspectives on the Role of Barriers
cast aluminum
14” x 14” x 13.75”

Growing up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, my concept of “Indian” formed early on: unprivileged as we were, we employed an Indian cleaning lady, Elizabeth Fasthorse, a wizen, old lady who spent as many weeks absent as she did in service. And my father took Indians as clients to help pay the mortgage, although payment to him often took the form of tomahawks and ghost shirts whose ignominious provenance, thus, included being passed to an Irish American lawyer in hopes of release from the drunk cell or dismissal of an assault charge, our home, museum-like with Indian artifacts, our mailbox brimming with bills.

Years and miles distant, I began reading the history of Native Americans, now knowing that I had earlier encountered symptoms of a scourge so deep as must be denied, allowing the American narrative to survive unsullied.

The critical pivot point for me was reading Charles C. Mann’s books, 1491 and 1493, recommended to me by Lincoln Mudd, a professor at Montgomery College and a Smithsonian Fellow that year. The act of which birthed my Native American series:

Varying Perspectives on the Role of Barriers
One of my favorite pieces, Varying Perspectives on the Role of Barriers is multi-faceted in its condemnation of our treatment of American aborigines. Lincoln Logs romanticized in play the brutal colonization of the American West, thus, rendering them in cast aluminum as the barrier to freedom of the iconographic feathers jars our understanding of them as tactile, light toys. The concept of reservations as places of safety defies the intent to use them as tools of containment. Representing Native Americans with metal feathers at once suggests that our understanding of them is cold, objectified, without sensate appreciation for them as fellow travellers upon this common road.

-S. Firstenberg


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