Portland-based artist Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke (Crow), born 1981) examines the tensions between traditional Native American culture, colonialist histories, and contemporary representations of Native peoples.
In Red Star’s Apsáalooke Feminist series, the artist photographs herself with her daughter, Beatrice, donning traditional elk tooth dresses, beaded jewelry, moccasins, and other items handmade according to Crow tradition. Made in close collaboration with Beatrice, the photographs embody a matrilineal sharing of Crow culture as customs and practices are kept alive by the next generation—and offer an empowered contemporary image of Native women.
In another type of cross-generational collaboration, Red Star’s Grandmothers series begins with the work of photographer Richard Throssel (1882–1933), a Cree man who was later adopted by the Crow Nation. In contrast with many of his non-Native contemporaries, Throssel portrayed his subjects with great humanity and intimacy, and chose to focus on Native women—the keepers of Crow cultural traditions, and the first generation to live on the reservation. Reaching across the century which divides them, Red Star collapses this distance of time and space by superimposing Throssel’s portraits onto reflective mirrors and bringing the viewer into the exchange as our own reflection appears alongside the grandmothers.
About the Artist
Red Star is the 2016 winner of the Betty Bowen Award. Established in 1977 to honor the legacy of Betty Bowen—an enthusiastic supporter of Northwest contemporary art—the annual award celebrates a Northwest artist for their original, exceptional and compelling work.