Gallery at the Center, September 22-November 20, 2015
Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Opening night, full of students, faculty and friends. Drawings by Inupiat tribesmen, not seen in public since the 1930s. Exhibited artwork collected by Philosophy Professor Wendell Ter Bush and donated to the University in 1935.
A wolf's head? The real deal.
I spoke with MA student Sarah Diver.
She leaned into her hand, remarking over blueberry cream tarts and olive breads, "I collaborated with Prof. Hutchinson. My approach was through the objects themselves. Drums. Mittens. Balls. Wolf-head masks. Hunting practices...not a lot of vegetation." Sarah means natives likely ate the wolf flesh, conserving the heads for dance masks.
"We will hear from the Inupiat People, their history of dances and depictions," says Professor Elizabeth Hutchinson, smiling. She has an opportunity to laurel herself, yet she only considers the academic subject.
Curator Hutchinson stands in a crowd of people, explaining and looking. Examining.
Frances Negron Muntaner, Director of Ethnicity and Race Studies at Columbia tells me this is the first show of the academic year. Next up is a colour photographic exhibit to rend hearts: Colors of Japanese Confinement. (Coming in December: rare Kodachrome photographs taken by Bill Manbo documenting incarceration at Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming.)
Frances comments, "In general, people think everything there is to see we can find on the Internet. It's important to realize there exists another way of knowing; there is a concrete space where strangers come together for the common purpose of expanding knowledge." She describes the University program's commitment to indigenous studies, rights, and policies, and an undergraduate indigenous discussion forum.
Frances wears clear-lens glasses rimmed in red. Like Prof. Hutchinson and MA student Sarah Diver, her heart rests with the work on display. All three are smart blondes.
To the men (and women?) who drew the wolf-masks seen tonight, self is lost to art, dance, and ceremony.