I love this framed print, it’s in my office now. I am fairly sure it was something my ex found as we did yard sales in Scottsdale, she was super good at finding such treasures.
“How The West Was Lost” is just dripping with symbolism and icons and mostly irony. All the stuff I love.You’ve got the Mexican and the Indian playing cards and losing their property (see the Indian land deed) and money to the white cowboy. There’s the steer, cattle, and religious symbols on the wall. There are the bottles of liquor (corn whisky for the white guy, tequila for the Mexican guy, and Fire Water for the Indian. All of the players have five cards in their hands, but the white guy has an extra in his pocket, plus the gun handy.
I’m sure there is more there, eh?
For 33% of the people at the table, the story is How The West Was Won… but for the rest?
Bradley is of the Chippewa people in Minnesota- and describes his perspective in a bio from the Plains Art Museum:
To be an artist from the Indian world carries with it certain responsibilities.. We have an opportunity to promote Indian truths and at the same time help dispel the myths and stereotypes that are projected upon us.. I consider myself an at-large representative and advocate of the Chippewa people and American Indians in general. It is a responsibility which I do not take lightly.
His work is political and plays with cultural icons, such as the play on Mona Lisa:
David P. Bradley, Pow-Wow Princess in the Process of Acculturation, 1990
Another review of his work shows many of the surreal visual qualities to it (the vivid light of the Southwest):
The imaginary is what ties this all together, because the critique of the Native place in American history and society is about the struggle people have with our realities versus the imaginary, the fantasies, and the stereotypes. Non-Natives (and Natives too) have these narratives ingrained and embedded in our thinking; so as Bucky Fuller said, you can’t change the present with the same paradigm, so change the paradigm. That’s what Bradley does, he creates and draws you into these new and different narratives where you get to see the Native side of things real, things made up, and things as they should be. Bradley says his art “portrays human conditions and personal relationships that would be too controversial in another form.” He is hard, cutting, biting, but also gentle, tender and funny; he uses modern mixed media to tell tragic tales of Native History—but the paintings take you mystical places that make sense out of absurdity.
It’s easy to focus on the films in Western106, but I think there’s a lot we could do with looking at the artwork depicting or influenced by the west (?).
I’m toying with some ideas how to base a Daily Create from the “How the West Was Lost” image — I have done a bit of quick searching and it does not come up readily as his other works.
The idea of so much riding on a card game sounds whimsical… Then again, the name of the town of Show Low, Arizona was literally the name of the card game by which one party lost their land.
Top / Featured Image Credits: Photo of a framed David P Bradley print in my office- I bought it at a garage sale, posted the photo to my flickr account (flickr photo by cogdogblog http://flickr.com/photos/cogdog/24431793211 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license). I might need a team of lawyers to figure out the right here (probably I lose). This **** is too messy for humans.
Of course you know this museum in Wash DC with the history and culture of the Indian peoples. The visits to that museum makes me sad and sorry.
I love this exploration of art and identity and a reframing of history.
As a radio art critic with a show to see and review later today, I particularly got a kick out of this analysis. I like how the Indian has a little bird talking in his ear and the cowboy’s dog is licking something that is a cross between a phallic and a yoni shape. Does the Mexican get a totem animal, too? Is there a worm at the bottom of the mescal?
Possible western-blog-post-of-the-week prompt: Find a piece of artist-identified or otherwise so-called “western” art and examine it closely. What exactly do you see? What conclusions do you draw that go deeper than “That’s cool”! What makes it “western”?