Thursday, November 27, 2008
Fritz Scholder Painting Used to Wrap Old Dead Fish (Breaking News)
Here we are at another cycle of the new American Mythology, "Native American Awareness Month".
The most notable event which has been referred in this empty gesture has been worldwide reviews and pontificating over Fritz Scholder: Indian/Not Indian, an exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in the USA.
While Scholder made some sort of an impression on the rich white people's art market, he made none at all on American Indian culture. He was not any kind of tribal person. He did have some "Indian Blood", whatever that may mean. Millions of Americans have some little drop of American Indian blood. What makes an American Indian an American Indian is participation in the culture, in the life, in the struggle, in the reality. Scholder did none of that, ever.
When one considers the many incredibly talented tribal artists working in both the past and the present who are actual participants in their tribal cultures, this national press worship of a dead artist who painted large smudgy paintings of American Indians he never met is perverse. His paintings are very good, which is not the point. He has, as many people do, American Indian ancestors, or "blood" as it is sometimes called. Not the point. Sometimes it seems harsh when people are challenged about their heroes. The artist is gone from caring what we think. Arguably it is not his fault. It is not right to say Scholder is an American Indian artist. That is the point. He was a very god artist, I like much of his work.
The media is clearly dominated by people who are white, think white, sleep white, drink and eat white and have white fantasies about who and where the Indians are. Sometimes it is rather cute, amusing, watching this behavior. Where in the world is one actual American Indian that the white press can applaud, salute or exhibit?
My vote for a really great, and really real American Indian Artist is one T.C. Canon. This guy was one real American Indian. His art was real, often profound, sometimes encompassing the great mysteries of real life in a tribal person's real world. I think my favorite painting of his was one he did where he showed his mom walking about in Santa Fe while pregnant with him. How many artists have that kind of eye? TC Canon dies at an early age. He died to young. I look at the content of his work and sometimes weep for many reasons, not the least of which was his astonishing clarity.
Looking at Scholder's paintings is like looking at mud pies made by children. And dollar signs. His work is very valuable. But who the fuck is he? In my view he is nobody. A ghost painting pictures of the ghosts in his own mind. Shame on the so-called Museum of the American Indian. What a bunch of stiffs, white stiffs.
Scholder had ZERO influence on American Indian artists. None. I rarely meet an American Indian who has even heard of him. Yet he is the darkling icon of white liberal writers, the same ones who made lifelong Catholic officer and shuffling tourist dancer Black Elk into a "holy man". White society prefers to manufacture its heroes rather than discover them.
Native American Awareness month means something, somewhere, to somebody. Like Thanksgiving. To real American Indians, not so much. It is puzzling. Latin Americans have produced real heroes to be trotted out by the white press, as have African Americans. What is it about real and actual American Indians that the white press cannot look around and find one actual human being from that culture to celebrate, pontificate over, and drag out for the annual holiday propaganda they put in between their advertisements?
As for Scholder's painting of an American Indian with a flag draped around him, I am waiting for the painting of a Republican Presidential Candidate, with one of Scholder's big muddy paintings wrapped around him as he raises his middle finger to everybody who is not white.
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