Independent scholar Zoya Kocur, writer Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds, and curator Valerie Smith lead an evening of critical reflection on the work and legacy of Jean Fisher (1942–2016), co-curator, with Jimmie Durham, of We the People at Artists Space in 1987. An early exhibition of Native American contemporary art in New York, this project sought to broaden representation of Indigenous artists while condemning the white gaze of institutional recognition. A text contributed by Durham will also be read.
The Work Between Us: Reflections on Jean Fisher is organized by Zoya Kocur in conjunction with the exhibition Unholding (November 19, 2017 – January 21, 2018). Special thanks go to Jean Fisher's longtime friends and collaborators Judith Barry and Ken Saylor.
In her talk, titled “Speaking Truth to Power: Native American Artists as Agents of Social Change,” Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds discussed decolonization; the writings of Jean Fisher; and the work of artists including Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, Jimmie Durham, George Longfish, Richard Ray Whitman, Edward Poitras, Rebecca Belmore, and Lawrence Paul Yuxwelptun. These artists were discussed within the context of the American Indian Movement and the cultural diversity agenda of the 1980s-1990s in terms of exhibitions such as The Decade Show and We The People.
“To be a native artist is to be insistent. You have to insist to deploy. You’re not often invited to deploy.” In an artist talk with his wife, art historian Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds discussed his art career before taking questions from the audience.
The artworks of Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds include multi-disciplinary forms of public art messages, large scale drawings, Neuf Series acrylic paintings, prints, works in glass and monumental porcelain enamel on steel outdoor sculpture. He was recently named an USA Ford Fellow in 2012 and Distinguished Alumni, University of Kansas in 2014. His artistic creations and efforts as an advocate for indigenous communities worldwide are focused first upon social justice and then the personal freedom to live within the tribal circle as an expressive individual.
In 2005, Professors Ann Hamilton and Michael Mercil began The Living Culture Initiative as a loosely organized cluster of cross-campus partnerships that integrate a variety of contemporary arts disciplines into the core research framework of OSU. They have audio and video documentation of a number of visitors’ lectures. In January 2016, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds and Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds took questions from the audience and were in conversation. You can listen to the audio documentation here.
Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds was born in Wichita, Kansas, and work[ed] as a Professor of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Heap of Birds works in a range of media including painting, print, signage, sculpture, and installation, often using text as a means to confront American history and hegemonic privilege. In his artwork and community engagement, Heap of Birds demonstrates how art can serve indigeneity as a “cultural tool and weapon.”
Heap of Birds received a BFA from the University of Kansas in 1976 and an MFA from Temple University in 1979, and has exhibited nationally and internationally. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trust. In 2012, Heap of Birds was named a Fellow of United States Artists.