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Cowgirls and Indians
Sarah Sense

Running Dates: Friday, February 1, 2019 to Saturday March 16, 2019
First Friday March 1 opened till 7pm

Artist Statement
Weaving photographs is my visual art practice; with photographic processes and cut paper, I have taught myself a weaving tradition of Chitimacha basket techniques, creating both flat mats and baskets to make social and political statements. Cowgirls and Indians is a fresh interpretation of a fourteen-year-old project, layering images from my collection, including: family photographs, Hollywood posters, antique posters, wild west show imagery, my Choctaw grandmother’s memoirs, Chitimacha landscapes, and my two personas: Cowgirl and Indian Princess. This body of work was originally explored in 2004, but with the recent American political landscape, I have found a new relevance with the imagery, questioning uses and misuses of cowboys, Indians, guns, women being taken and stereotyping.

The landscape photography featured in each piece is of Bayou Teche, the main water fixture on the Chitimacha reservation. The bayou and surrounding waters are home to cypress trees. The roots to these mysterious swamp trees grow into the earth under the water and then back up to breathe oxygen through the root, delicately balancing life with water, air and earth. This past December, I was taken on a fishing boat into a cypress swamp to capture the landscape images featured in this series. The Chitimacha basket weaving of the photographs gently reveal patterns from both Chitimacha and Choctaw baskets in my personal collection. Patterning morphs and changes into abstraction to push imagery forward and backward, creating a dialogue between the bayou landscapes and figurative photographs. Handwritten text on some landscapes are my grandmother’s memoirs re-written in ink by me. Her memoirs tell stories of what it was like to grow up in southeast United States in the early 20th century. The serene landscapes against these words reveal the timelessness of the landscape as it remains a part of the reservation and history. Mixing images with stories of struggle give a glimpse into a realistic history, symbolizing connections to land and the relevance of cultural preservation through protection and respect of land. Weaving these landscapes together with brightly contrasting Hollywood and pop culture imagery representing stereotypes of Native North America, questions the misconceptions of differing realities.

Like photographs, stories are a recorded history, merging time and memory repeatedly both orally and visually. I use posters and personas to explore American popular culture’s stereotypes of Native North America in Hollywood cinema, fashion trends and pop icons. Cowboy and Indian iconography are deeply rooted in America without recognition of the real history or the consequences of stereotypes. These generalizations are detrimental to the collective community and to the individual. Cowgirls and Indians explores these questions of identity, and the influence of imagery on global consciousness.


We’d like to thank for the support of the University of Manitoba- Faculty of Arts Women’s and Gender Studies, the Margaret Laurence Endowment Fund, U of M School of Fine Arts, MAWA and C2.

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