Tom Jones: The States Project: Wisconsin
Tom Jones, an artist, educator and author based in Madison, has explored his Native American culture for years in a variety of ways. Jones’ exploration and documentation of his people are perhaps more important than ever, now – as our country comes to terms with who has come in the past, who will arrive in the future, and who was here to begin with.
His series, I am an Indian First and an Artist Second delivers in many ways, for me. The subject matter is smart, straightforward and pointed; the images strong and graphic, the appeal incredibly accessible. In a completely different manner, People of the Big Voice, Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families by Charles Van Schaick, 1879-1943, a book he co-authored, contains more than 300 photographs of tribal members, shot by a Black River Falls, Wisconsin photographer Charles Van Schaick (of Wisconsin Death Trip fame). The power of the images speaks to the lasting power of still photography, and remarkably, 90% of the subjects are identified in the vintage photographs.
Tom Jones is an Associate Professor of Photography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Master of Fine Arts in Photography and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois.
Jones’ artwork is a commentary on American Indian identity, experience and perception. He is examining how American Indian culture is represented through popular culture and raises questions about these depictions of identity by non-natives and Natives alike. He continues to work on an ongoing photographic essay on the contemporary life of his tribe, the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin.
Jones is the co-curator for the exhibition For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw at the National Museum of the American Indian. His artwork is in numerous private and public collections, most notably: The National Museum of the American Indian, Polaroid Corporation, Sprint Corporation, The Chazen Museum of Art, The Nerman Museum, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Museum of Contemporary of Native Arts and Microsoft.
I am an Indian First and an Artist Second
This work draws from a current controversy in contemporary American Indian art, which positions artists who claim their Native ancestry against those that prefer to minimize or even deny their Native heritage. These scans of the bottom stands of plastic toy Indians denies the viewer the presence of the Indian figure and acts as a metaphor for the loss of cultural identity. The abstracted perspective allows only a surface rendering of the complexity of American Indian identity in the 21st century. It at the same time questions what makes work distinctly American Indian when there are no visual tropes of cultural identity.
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Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: The States Project: WisconsinJanuary 10th, 2016
Naomi Shersty: The States Project: WisconsinJanuary 9th, 2016
Jon Horvath: The States Project: WisconsinJanuary 8th, 2016
Lois Bielefeld: The States Project: WisconsinJanuary 7th, 2016
Sonja Thomsen: The States Project: WisconsinJanuary 6th, 2016