Art gives us the means to see things in a different way. It not necessarily the artist’s point of view; it may be one that exclusively belongs to you, the viewer. What a refreshing summer Friday, at the end of a long, unimaginative week, to step into the Museum of Wisconsin Art, meet a few friends and neighbors, have a glass of wine, see something new and recharge.
I had seen the photographs of Edward S. Curtis on a previous visit, his marvelous dignified portraits of North American Indians taken in the early 20th Century. This Friday, Curtis’ “Vanishing Race” shared the museum’s windowed, white space with contemporary American Indian artist’s Tom Jones abstract stories made of color images and shadows of plastic toy “cowboys and Indians.” We stopped and stared and wondered what it all meant, and we started talking. “I am an Indian First and an Artist Second” is Tom Jones using metaphors about what he perceives as “a form of identity genocide” within the Ho-Chuck community. The bases of the toy figures, scanned from below, in bright reds and blues, made bold patterns in their arrangements, imprinted with “MADE IN CHINA,” while the figures themselves disappeared like strands of smoke beyond the glass. I guess you have to see it to even try to understand.