VISUAL ARTS REVIEW: All My Relations presents provocative images in Maggie Thompson's “Where I Fit”

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pocahotness_where_i_fit.jpgWhen you think of your cultural and

ethnic identity, is there a piece of cloth – a sown or painted

tapestry, a beaded headband, a knitted cable sweater, a special quilt

made by the matriarch in your family – that helps you honor and

celebrate who you are? Cloth and/or textiles are often overlooked as

key cultural touchstones in modern day society, but they are the

focus of Maggie Thompson’s solo exhibition at All My Relations

Gallery. She uses textiles to ask important questions about family,

identity and culture. As a Native American woman (Fond du Lac

Ojibwe), Thompson uses this show to “dig deeper into the notions of

her identity focusing on issues of cultural appropriation and Native

authenticity through the rigid ideas of blood quantum and

stereotyping.”

Her show is socially powerful with

hints of nostalgia, deep-rooted sadness, and an anger that bubbles up

along the edges. All the pieces showcase Thompson’s talents when it

comes to color, patterns, and fabric types. She also pushes

boundaries when it comes to textiles incorporating multimedia

elements – screen-printing photographs, gold and silver threads,

foam cookie cutters and also cornhusks and bottle caps.

The artist was initially an

architectural student at the Rhode Island School of Design, so there

are elements of her weaving and knitting that certainly draw from

this, like straight lines and geometric patterns intentionally

building a whole from smaller parts. Thompson recalls feeling like an

artist even when she was very young, long before her textile degree

from RISD.

“I was always involved in the arts

growing up, whether it was taking classes, going to museums, or just

working at home with my mom," she said. "In 4th grade I

transferred to the Minnesota Waldorf School, and it was there that I

first learned how to knit in my handworking class.”

She later graduated from the Perpich

Center for Arts Education high school, but college was where she

realized, “I had a story to tell and therefore I felt compelled to

reach out to people to start dialogue through art.”

The opening reception for Where I Fit

last week featured a live mannequin on a pedestal modeling a piece of

clothing created to conjure a jingle dress and also exotic dancewear.

To interact with the model was to feel seduced, but to also realize

the cultural prostitution that is placed upon Native American women.

The title, “Pocahotness,” was derived from a nickname that some

college friends gave Thompson at school. A number of pieces in the

exhibit that speak to the stereotype of the “authentic Indian.”

Some touching and personal works come

from Thompson’s relationship to her father. She said that she’s

compelled to create works that deal with saying good-bye, mourning,

letting go and being. Finding where she fits. “My art helps me to

sort out things I have a hard time talking about, and helps to

channel my energy.”show_opening_where_i_fit.jpg

The gallery at All My Relations Arts

“honors and strengthens relationships between contemporary American

Indian artists and the living influence of preceding generations.”

It is an arts & cultural project of the Native American Community

Development Institute (NACDI). The gallery shares the building with

the administrative offices of NACDI and also a coffee shop.

Jay Bad Heart Bull, president &

CEO of NACDI, ensures it’s a welcoming space for all and greeted

guests as they arrived for the show’s opening reception as though

everyone was an old friend. Dyani White Hawk Polk, arts project

manager for the organization, introduced the artist and the show. She

noted that Maggie Thompson initially submitted a piece, “The Weight

on my Shoulders” to be juried at an earlier show, "Ded

Unk’unpi/We Are Here," and that piece was then purchased by the

Minnesota Historical Society to be part of their permanent

collection.

A panel discussion on authenticity,

appropriation, and the arts is scheduled for Friday, April 25, from 6

to 8 p.m., also at the gallery. Panelists include artist Maggie

Thompson, local writer Sasha Houston Brown and founder of Beyond

Buckskin Boutique, Jessica Metcalfe.

This show is not to be missed. If you

haven’t been to All My Relations on the American Indian Cultural

Corridor in Minneapolis, or even if you have—the time to go (again)

is now. You’ll be compelled to reflect on your own cultural

heritage, relationship with parents and where you fit amongst it all.

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