Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Native Knowledge" update

Posted By on Sun, Aug 12, 2012 at 11:04 AM

The Greeters (Native Knowledge) at Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino
  • "The Greeters" ("Native Knowledge") at Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino

Jane Rogers, head of the Sculpture at the River Market group that bought the newly installed sculpture at the entrance to the Junction Bridge (a.k.a. La Petite Roche Plaza), sent me a note this a.m. confirming that Denny Haskew's "Native Knowledge" was purchased by the group for $50,000.

Her note:

The beautiful sculpture was paid for using funds raised from the annual show and sale. Sculpture at the River Market paid $50,000 for the piece and we are thrilled and proud with not only the important location but sculpture itself. Denny Haskew is one of the top sculptors in the United States and we all feel tremendously fortunate to have another one of his pieces.

I wrote earlier about my objections to the work — not to Denny Haskew, mind you — because it was presented to the city to honor, theoretically, Arkansas's native people, the Quapaw, Osage and Caddo, all unceremoniously pushed out to Oklahoma and points west by white colonizers. Because there is no reservation land in Arkansas, the histories of the tribes are not as well known as they would be otherwise. For example, it may not be widely known that feather headdresses were worn in the Plains, not the Southeast. It does the tribes a disservice to use an image of a Plains Indian — on one of the three bas reliefs supported by steel beams in "Native Knowledge" — in tribute to Arkansas natives. Traditional dress for the Caddo, to whom this piece is dedicated, didn't include big feather bonnets.

It's not a minor point. American Indians are not monolithic. We wouldn't use an image of a guy in a bowler hat, for example, to stand for Dean Kumpuris, should the committee decide to honor him one day with a sculpture, which of course it should. We'd sculpt Kumpuris' own image, probably with a bow tie. Nor would we expect to see that sculpture then replicated and put in front of a California casino, in tribute to someone else, as "Native Knowledge" is (though there, where it is dedicated to the Barona Indians, it's called "The Greeters.")

Enough about that. Here's another thing: The city of Little Rock, now having officially, if unintentionally, offended the state's native residents, could not tell me what its new asset is worth. They didn't ask? The parks department is responsible for seeing that park property is maintained and unmolested. (It's had to do repair work to a couple of works in the Vogel-Schwartz Garden behind the Peabody in Riverfront Park, sending pieces back to the foundry for repair after kids skateboarded on them and vandalized them.) Seems like the city ought to know replacement value — or maybe it figures public art should fend for itself. Or that the non-profit will pick up the tab. I'll ask Rogers if that's the case.

Meanwhile, about that bust of Kumpuris? Get an Arkansan to do it, OK? May I suggest Kevin Kresse?

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