Multi-media artist Wendy Red Star, a member of the Apsáalooke (Crow) tribe, offers accounts of American history that rectify the frequently flawed narratives about Native people. An avid researcher, Red Star re-examines cultural artifacts and primary source historic imagery, and uses them as the foundation for her beautifully annotated photographs and installations. The Children of the Large-Beaked Bird exhibition provides an opportunity for adults and children to look at history and representation with fresh eyes. As Red Star notes: “It is critical to preserve and pass along culture, heritage, and shared values while also providing future generations with a sense of identity, solidarity, and empowerment.”
At the center of Children of the Large-Beaked Bird (the English translation of “Apsáalooke”) are Red Star’s annotated portraits of the historic 1880 Crow Peace Delegation that brought leaders to meet with U.S. officials for land rights negotiations. Using red pen to add text and definition to the archival images, she draws attention to the ways in which the original portraits deliberately remove the leaders from their contexts. New work created specifically for MASS MoCA turns these images into large photographic blow-ups and lifesize cutout figures, with the goal to bring the portrait sitters to life, and reclaim Red Star’s ancestors.
The exhibition will also feature plush stuffed toy animals based on drawings and notes by Peelatchiwaaxpáash/Chief Medicine Crow, together self-portraits of the artist, as she places herself in artificial, colorful dioramas while wearing traditional Apsáalooke clothing.
The Apsáalooke language — spoken today by just 3-4,000 tribal members primarily living in Montana — is at risk of vanishing. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the U.S. government attempted to systematically eradicate the Crow language, requiring Crow children to learn and speak only English at the boarding schools they were required to attend. Since the Crow language is an oral tradition, removal of these children from their culture also contributed to the demise of the language. At the ArtBar, visitors can listen to the artist’s father speak Crow words for animals and then interpret them as part of a community drawing project. Red Star’s drawing activity builds awareness of her Native language and demonstrates the importance of clear and accurate communication across cultures (and perhaps its impossibility).
About the Artist
Artist Wendy Red Star works across disciplines to explore the intersections of Native American ideologies and colonization, both historically and in contemporary society. Raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, Red Star’s work is informed both by her heritage and her engagement with many forms of creative expression, including photography, sculpture, video, fiber arts, and performance. An avid researcher of archives and historical narratives, Red Star seeks to incorporate and recast her research, offering new and unexpected perspectives in work that is at once inquisitive, witty and unsettling. Intergenerational collaborative work is integral to her practice, along with creating a wider forum for the expression of Native women’s voices in contemporary art.
Red Star has exhibited in the United States and abroad at venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fondation Cartier pour l’ Art Contemporain, Domaine de Kerguéhennec, Portland Art Museum, Hood Art Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, among others. She served as a visiting lecturer at institutions including Yale University, the Figge Art Museum, the Banff Centre, National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Dartmouth College, CalArts, Flagler College, and I.D.E.A. Space in Colorado Springs. In 2017, Red Star was awarded the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and in 2018 she received a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. In 2019 Red Star had her first career survey exhibition at the Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey.
Red Star holds a BFA from Montana State University, Bozeman, and an MFA in sculpture from University of California, Los Angeles. She lives and works in Portland, OR.
Kidspace is a child-centered art gallery and hands-on studio (ArtBar) presenting exhibitions and educational experiences in collaboration with leading artists. Wendy Red Star’s exhibition continues a 20-year tradition of the program to focus on contemporary social issues and expand notions of art and art materials.
Core education funding is provided by the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation.
Education at MASS MoCA is made possible in part by Samantha and Daniel Becker; John B. DeRosa; The Feigenbaum Foundation; Timur Galen and Linda Genereux; MountainOne; National Endowment for the Arts; Xtina and James R. Parks; the Ruth E. Proud Charitable Trust; John F. and Judith B. Remondi; The Milton and Dorothy Sarnoff Raymond Foundation; Holly Swett; and the Willow Tree Fund.
Additional support is provided by anonymous (2); Berkshire Bank; Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and the Adams Cheshire Educational Partnership, Cooper Meadow Fund, Gateway Fund, and William J. and Margery S. Barrett Fund; Joyce Bernstein and Lawrence Rosenthal; Guido’s Fresh Marketplace; the Arthur I. and Susan Maier Fund, Inc.; and Mass Cultural Council.
The Milton and Dorothy Sarnoff Raymond Foundation gives in memory of Sandy and Lynn Laitman.
Wendy Red Star, Peelatchiwaaxpáash / Medicine Crow (Raven), 2014.
Courtesy of the artist.