Wendy Red Star: A Scratch on the Earth
The most comprehensive exhibition of Wendy Red Star’s work to date, and the Montana-raised artist’s first solo museum exhibition on the East Coast, “Wendy Red Star: A Scratch on the Earth” opened Feb. 23 at New Jersey’s Newark Museum, and continued through June 16. This unprecedented show featured 60 works by Red Star, including loans from museum collections throughout the United States, and highlighted 15 years of her studio practice, from 2006-19.
In a story about the exhibit, Vogue praised Red Star as “a smart and ironic but always beautiful multimedia artist, one who is flipping tropes with pictures and annotations and even textiles that often use Crow colors (among others) to converse with the past in a way that is fluent in today’s cultural landscape.”
Bringing the historical details of Crow and colonist history into the Technicolor present, Red Star uses photography, textiles, and mixed media installation to explore themes of Crow history, the indigenous roots of feminism, and contemporary life on the Crow Indian reservation in Montana where she was raised.
An enrolled member of the Apsáalooke (Crow) Tribe who now lives in Portland, OR, Red Star works across disciplines to explore the intersections of Native American ideologies and colonialist structures, both historically and in contemporary society. Drawing on pop culture, conceptual art, and aspects of reservation life and Crow traditions, she pushes photography in new directions – from self-portraiture to photo-collage and altered historical photographs – often incorporating photography with textiles and fashion as bearers of tradition.
At the heart of the exhibition, visitors experienced a new immersive multi-media installation, co-directed by Red Star and Amelia Winger-Bearskin, artist and Google VR JUMP Start creator. Titled “Monsters,” this five-minute video was screened inside a simulated sweat lodge. It documents the Montana landscape in a 360-degree format, bringing to life aspects of Crow mythology related to the landscape.
The title of the exhibition, “A Scratch on the Earth,” (or Annúkaxua in Apsáalooke) refers to a period after 1880 when U.S. government policy prioritized keeping the Crow people on their reservation.
A review of the exhibit in The New York Times discusses “one of the most engrossing works in the exhibition”: “Um-basax-bilua, ‘Where They Make the Noise’ 1904-2016” (2019), a roughly 130-foot long timeline of photographs from Crow Fair. Jillian Steinhauer writes, “Ms. Red Star turns public history into a personal project, which she then returns to public view. In the process she drives home the timeless lesson that matters of government policy are also matters of people’s lives.”
For more about the artist and her work, visit wendyredstar.com.
(Photo): “Um-basax-bilua, ‘Where They Make the Noise’ 1904-2016” by Wendy Red Star (Newark Museum)