"I've never called myself an Indian artist. Everyone else has."
- Fritz Scholder
Scholder’s art provoked questions that a lot of contemporary Indigenous artists ask themselves (e.g. "What is Indian art? Who is an Indian artist? To what extent must a person have lived an 'Indian life' to be an Indian artist? What of the non-Indian who employs traditional Indian styles or treats Indian subjects?")
As artists, we are constantly in a tug of war between defining our work and having our work defined for us. This becomes especially difficult as artists with intersectional identities.
Norval Morrisseau has been long identified as an Indigenous artist, but was also openly bisexual. His artistic style identified him as a Native artist to his audience, which overshadowed his sexuality, despite its presence in some of his work. What makes his art more Indigenous than queer? Who identifies an artwork as either Indigenous or queer? Is it the artist, or the audience who interprets their work?
As a Two Spirit artist, I’m always having these discussions with my art. Is my queer art Indigenous? Is my Indigenous art queer? How is it defined? Is it the artist who makes the work? Is it the subject matter, or lack thereof? Even the context of the space the work is shown can play a role.
The pieces shown in this gallery reflects my empowerment as a Two Spirit person. This work that cannot be identified as solely one part of my identity or the other; it is equally queer and Indigenous.
About the Artist
Ryan Young (They/Them/Their) is a multi-disciplinary Two Spirit Ojibwe artist completing their BFA in Studio Arts and a certificate in Performing Arts this fall at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. Their work focuses on the intersections of cultural, gender and sexual identity. They are a fashion photographer for Native Max Magazine, and their most recent collaborations include contributions to an upcoming book by the American Theatre Wing, and being selected as the designing artist for Eighth Generation's latest blanket design for the Two Spirit community, due out in November. They are currently working at the Native American House at the University of Illinois as the Coordinator for Two Spirit and Indigenous Programming.