Friday, July 27, 2012

Why can't we have something of our own? Re: Indians at the Little Rock

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 4:28 PM

Haskews Native Knowledge
  • Haskew's "Native Knowledge"

Why can't Little Rock install a sculpture that, either in execution and subject or both, springs from an artist we call one of our own?

The latest example: The "Native Knowledge" sculpture installed at the Junction Bridge, near what's left of the Little Rock. Donated to the city by the "Sculpture at the River Market" non-profit, which has set itself up as the arbiter of public art in Little Rock, Denny Haskew's sculpture features three Indian faces emerging from stone slabs, each with a name: “Give of Yourself,” “Respect all that is Natural,” and “Observe Nature.”

A press release announcing the sculpture's installation in June said the sculpture was "a tribute to the Caddo, Osage, and Quapaw Native American Cultures of Arkansas."

That's funny, because the same sculpture was previously dedicated to the Barona elders, a California tribe, when it was installed in front of the Barona Resort and Casino in San Diego. I don't know who it was dedicated to in Durango, Colo., where it stands at the entrance to the Fort Lewis College — the Southern Ute, maybe? — or at the Marianne Butte Golf Course in Loveland, Colo. from whence all Arkansas sculpture comes. (An eagle theme would have been a good idea for a golf course, it seems to me.)

There are engravings on the backs of the stone said to symbolize the Caddo, Osage and Quapaw. They couldn't have been done in consultation with the tribes: The chief, who has a Caddoan design on his back, is wearing a Plains Indian feather headdress. Good grief.

Haskew is Potawatomi, which shouldn't exclude him from crafting art about other tribes or indeed anything, but didn't it bother him to say these sculptures are in tribute to Arkansas's tribes?

So, again, I ask. Is there no Arkansas sculptor or Caddo, Quapaw or Osage sculptor, or even a Tunican (depending on which archeologist you side with) who could have done a unique sculpture here? For $50,000 — the price quoted in one article — seems like you could.

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