Artist Spotlight: Wendy Red Star

Artist Spotlight
Wendy Red Star

By Tyler Noland, SOU ’21

Representation becomes a complex issue when someone’s art is considered to be both a personal and cultural statement. Wendy Red Star makes art that is unique to her experiences as a member of the Crow Tribe. Often, artwork by indigenous artists is labelled as something inherently political and non-contemporary simply because of common misconceptions. While Wendy’s artwork has political undertones, it is the simple fact of being an indigenous artist making artwork about identity outside of the colonial framework that creates political perceptions of her work. Filled with vibrant colors and patterns, Wendy’s work captures her experiences as a Crow woman as well as a contemporary female artist. Subverting the pressures of being a representational force, her art tells viewers what it’s like to be Wendy Red Star. 

Wendy Red Star, “Summer” from “The Four Seasons” series, archival pigment print on museo silver rag, 35.5 x 40 inches, courtesy of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

On display in the Schneider’s Main Gallery are a series of Red Star’s prints. Wendy uses the Crow fair as a connecting thread throughout many of these prints, an element of her upbringing that brings forth a feeling of history both personal and otherwise. The Crow Fair is an annual county fair started in 1904 with the intention of forcing the Crow tribe to conform to modern colonial society. In order to encourage participation, the government relaxed its strict policies about dances and ceremonies, allowing native rituals at this one event. Crow fair has become a yearly celebration of Crow culture, featuring parades, dancing, and the dawning of traditional regalia for more than a hundred years now. Wendy uses images from Crow Fair in three of her Main Gallery prints, the first of which, “lilaalee = car (goes by itself) + ii = by means of which + daanniili = we parade” shows a string of cars decorated in Pendleton blankets, a Crow obsession according to Red Star. The cars in the image are dressed up in the style of horses and set to the background of patterns taken from mass produced Pendleton blankets. This is just one example of how her work within her own personal landscape is reflective of the changing nature of modern indigenious culture. 

In her print “Apsaalooke Roses” Red Star uses images of herself and her daughter at Crow fair when they were around the same age. This piece captures the matriarchal nature of the Crow tribe as it features aspects from four generations of women. Red Star uses her grandmother’s rose patterns as the backdrop to the images of herself and her daughter. In addition her mother did the embroidery on the purse her daughter is wearing in the print, tying together the familial background of roses and the generational ties between the women of her family. Although times are changing the traditions of Crow culture carry on, not only through the presence at Crow fair but also the bonds and traditions passed down through a family. 

The Winter Exhibition Two Generations: Joe Feddersen & Wendy Red Star will be on display in the Schneider Museum of Art in Ashland, OR until March 14th, 2020.

Tyler Noland is a junior Creative Writing major at Southern Oregon University. She is originally from the Bay Area, and this is her second year at the Schneider Museum of Art. While not working on her writing she enjoys thrifting for her newest funky outfit.