Juanita’s Loom with Textile

Another great hybrid art object and “strange tool” is this tapestry created by Juanita (Navajo, 1845–1910) who we see here presenting it in Washington DC to commemorate the signing of the Bosque Redondo treaty in 1874.

Textile scholar Kate Kent calls this weaving one of the first Navajo pictorials. Purposefully incomplete, we get to see its guts, and while half of the textile depicts a version of the American flag, the other half is a kind of “eye-dazzler,” so named for its brilliant colors and patterns.

This is not just a trade object or curio created for the White market…


Indigenous American Photography

Cree artist Kent Monkman works with gender, history, and Indigenous representation on multiple levels, and he often manipulates photographs to look old and timeless. Here is one from his 2007 series The Emergence of a Legend, which are digital prints on metallic paper, 6 x 4" each.

In this one we see Cindy Silverscreen, a persona of Miss Chief Eagle Testicle (a play on mischief egotistical), who is one of Monkman’s alter egos, standing as a movie director with bullhorn and camera in front of a backdrop of Monument Valley. Monkman says this references the Hollywood Western, specifically The Searchers


Left: Unidentified Hopi carver. Mickey Mouse katsina (kachina/tithu), 1940s, Cottonwood root, acrylic paint, feathers, string; Right: Juanita (Asdzáá Tł’ogi), Diné (Navajo), Loom with Textile, 1874. Wool yarn, wooden rods

Through remixing, colonized people can encode their own histories into the dominant symbols, thus ensuring their survival. Dominant symbols, after all, have incredible staying power. “Remixing,” meaning repurposing, sampling, editing, cutting up, becomes a technology of survivance.


Goddess figurines and the post-human body

The faceless paleolithic female figurines found across ancient Eurasia are some of the oldest drawings and carvings of the “human” figure we have, which give us a taste of more possibilities for embodiment.

Yoni Lingam/Venus Penis/Phallus Chalice

For more than ten thousand years people were carving naked women onto phallic stones. This is who we were, as a people, for thousands of years.

There were no male figurines.


Art is a communication, and hermeneutics is how we can skillfully interpret its messages.

“Integral” — holistic, comprehensive, inclusive.

“Hermeneutics” — the art and science of interpretation. From the Greek hermēneutikós, related to Hermes, the messenger spirit with winged feet who shapeshifts into whatever form is needed to communicate the message.

Wholes and Parts

Interpreting and appreciating art involves grasping the whole work and its internal parts. Hans-Georg Gadamer: “Thus the movement of understanding is constantly from the whole to the part and back to the whole.”

Wholes: depend on their parts to exist, but also ‘transcend’ their parts. “The whole is always…


Ai Wei Wei, Odyssey, 2017

Wallpaper doesn’t just decorate a room. It helps walls become windows that tell stories. Early European papers were literally religious icons. In France, Christian icons called dominos were placed on walls in lower-class homes, “where they performed a double function, being both a talisman against bad luck and a covering for the cracks in the walls.”

Iconography changed, and wallpaper soon began to simulate wood, stucco, brick, flowers, and trees. Nature was being eliminated by urbanization and bourgeois industrialization so its ghosts were printed onto walls. Of course, forests and real flowers get destroyed to make wallpaper. …


This is Chinese Zen master Mu Qi’s famous 13th-century painting of six persimmons. Notice that there’s no table and no shadows. It’s groundless, like the mirror-mind or groundless condition of all things–what Zen Buddhists like to call groundlessness. The floating persimmons also feel timeless and unplaceable.

The persimmons on the edges are empty. Like thoughts arising out of and returning to the nature of mind, the persimmons appear to emerge out of and then return to the paper.

We might also notice that this drawing is about repetition and order, but it’s also about diversity and spontaneity. Not only are…


Tom Jones (Ho-Chunk), Arvina Martin, Ineligible, 2012

Enlarged portraits against a white background by Tom Jones with text: “Arvina and Simone Martin are both Native children. Yes they are multiracial, but many of the family traditions they are exposed to are Ho-Chunk. Both girls are one-fourth “Native blood.” They cannot be enrolled in their Ho-Chunk and Stockbridge nations because neither girl has enough Ho-Chunk or Stockbridge blood quantum to be enrolled in either. They are not recognized as Native children by any tribal or federal governments. Hence they are not Native people.”


Another look at material religion in Japan

I took the high-speed bullet train down to see the Chiran Kamikaze Peace Museum, built at the site where 1,038 Tokka kamikaze pilots gathered, partied, rested and raged before dying in their rocket-powered Okah “cherry blossom” plane-bombs. The museum is surrounded by cherry blossom trees, and the gift shop is filled with cherry blossom-embellished trinkets.

David Titterington

Painter and Professor of Art

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