Early twentieth-century photographer and amateur anthropologist Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1952), convinced the American Indian was doomed to extinction, made it his lifelong goal to create an exhaustive document of memories of this “disappearing race.” Between 1900 and 1930, he traveled the Western half of North America in search of the “old time Indian” to photograph and interview. Skidmore College has in its collection one of the few remaining complete editions of his twenty-volume survey of texts and photographs. For this exhibition, the Tang invited six contemporary North American Indian artists to propose works that would respond to Curtis’s photographs and writings. The exhibition included video, photography, painting, sculpture, performance, and site-specific installation, as well as works from Curtis’s portfolio. In the fall of 2000, Skidmore anthropology students examined Curtis’s representations; museumgoers could read their papers, displayed throughout the gallery. Ultimately, Staging the Indian: the Politics of Representation brought together a compilation of independent perspectives to inform and critique Curtis’s personal vision.
Artists included Marcus Amerman, Judith Lowdry, James Luna, Nora Naranjo-Morse, Shelly Niro, and Bently Sprang.
Lenders included the artists, James and Margie Krebs, and the Lucy Scribner Library, Skidmore College. Organized by Jill Sweet, Professor of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work with Ian Berry, curator of the Tang Teaching Museum.
A catalogue is available with an introduction by W. Richard West, and essays by Jill Sweet, Katie Hauser, and Barry Pritzker, and interviews with the artists by Ian Berry.