The Map(ing) project, established in 2009, was a biennial event that investigates the personal and cultural histories of Native American and Indigenous artists. Each year five artists are invited to work collaboratively with students from ASU’s School of Art. Over a ten-day period, collaborative teams create an editioned print exploring the works’ meaning, content, and symbolism. The project also features a public exhibition and moderated public forum that engages participants and audiences with contemporary Native artistic practices. Together we generate new forms of knowledge by using printmaking and visual storytelling for the sharing of culture, place, language, and identity.
Map(ing) 2017 was proudly sponsored in part by an ArtWorks grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Each invited artist was assigned a team of two students to collaborate on a limited edition print to be completed in one week. It was not necessary that the invited artists have any printmaking experience; in fact, it was preferred that they did not, positioning the graduate students as the experts in regards to process and technique. However, the invited artists did have a strong artistic vision and a willingness to work as a collaborator in an educational setting. The Map(ing) artists had a range of creative practices, ages, and tribal affiliations and education. Each artist is accomplished in their discipline and dedication to their studio practice, which often stems from traditional craft forms. Each artist brought a wealth of experience to the printmaking studios by approaching the new medium with confidence and inquiry, allowing new forms of knowledge and creative outcomes to be discovered between students and Indigenous artists.
Oral, written and discursive histories, moral philosophy, religion, cultural studies, the identity of person and place, and language are central to the Map(ing) project. Map(ing) artists use a visual language, coupled with oral and written testament, to produce works that transcend the boundaries of history and heritage, geography, and tribal affiliation to become part of public and critical discourses of the present and the future. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Native arts were reduced to creating crafts mostly targeting the tourist trade, while losing focus on traditional crafts and artistic cultural practices of documentation such as seasonal counts on hides and ledger art. Issues of authenticity, identity formation, marginalization, and commodification have since become central to Native artists’ creative practice; creating new work with postmodern themes for the fine art market. Take for example the work of Steven Yazzie, (Dine), Map(ing) alumni 2009. Yazzie’s print, “Tsosido Sweep Dancer”, uses the photogravure process to challenge the authenticity of 19thcentury photogravure representations of Native Peoples by creating a fictitious character and staging a false ceremony in the image. Yazzie calls into question the dominant cultural script to reclaim it. Artists who are fully conscious of their separation from mainstream ideologies as a modern condition are creating some of the most innovative and interesting art.
Findings and Impact
Each artist’s work tells a story of culture and place that is not static but reflects constantly changing circumstances that are influenced by events beyond their control. Contemporary Native artists are keenly aware of the balance between honoring traditions and making work that is uniquely their own. Images are composed from a visual language that is informed from oral traditions within the tribe, popular culture, and/or personal histories. Prints from the edition became part of the permanent print collection at the ASU Art Museum and the School of Art archive as well as gifted to the assisting graduate students, artists sponsors, and an exchange among the participating artists. Map(ing) prints archived at the ASU Art Museum (ASUAM), Print Study Room are available for scholars, curators, students, and the public to review and include in their own research projects.
Steven Yazzie, Tsosido Sweep Dancer, photogravure and letterpress