Essential DC, History, Interviews, Life in the Capital, Opinion, Special Events, Sports Fix, The Features, They Make DC, We Love Arts

Local Indigenous Artist Showcases the Racism of Redskin

(c) Gregg Deal

(c) Gregg Deal

Those who think the continuing movement to change the name of the local pro football team is a waste of time and trivial were clearly not at the recent Art All Night event here in the District. Secreted in one corner of the venue was local Indigenous artist Gregg Deal. His project, “Redskin,” took on the racial overtones of the team moniker and projected it at his audience.

What he, nor spectators or his helpers predicted was just how pointed it ended up being.

Deal first let me know of the project in early September. What initially struck me about his proposed performance piece was the fact he was willingly subjecting himself to some serious abuse. Natives in the area–as well as those protesting football games elsewhere in the country–have always been subjected to abuses by team fans, especially if they’re open about their opposition to the name. (Witness the reactions by fans, as recalled by several Natives, during a recent taping for The Daily Show.)

So why do it, especially in an art venue? “As people of color, or more specifically, Indigenous people, we deal with something called microaggression. It’s the needle pricks in our general American society and culture that says or does things that are offensive to Natives. They’re called ‘microaggression’ because they are passive aggressive enough to get by your average person, but still aggressive,” said Deal. “For example, when I worked at the National Museum of American Indian in 2004-2005, someone asked me if I still lived in a Tipi. This would be microaggression because it’s an insane questions that is based on stereotypes, but it’s also a statement about what this person believes quantifies me as an Indigenous person.”

The term ‘redskin,’ painted faces and faux headdresses, drunken war chants – these are all examples of microaggression. Deal’s performance piece was meant to use all of these abuses, commonly found in tailgate parties at FedEx Field and used by team fans around the world, over an eight-hour period. “I ended up calling it after just over four hours,” said Deal. “All of us–my friends who were helping me and myself–were just mentally and psychologically drained from the experience.”

Bryce Huebner, an Associate Professor at Georgetown University, was one of Deal’s assistants who played a part of one of the abusive fans. “I said things that I would never say in real life, in hopes of making it clear how ugly and harmful the casual racism against indigenous people in the United States is,” he said. “I was struck by how difficult it was to start playing that role, when I arrived my heart was pounding and I could hardly speak; but more troubling by far was the fact that it became easy to continue as I started to play off of the other actors. There’s an important lesson there: if you surround yourself with people who espouse hostile attitudes, it’s much easier to adopt those attitudes yourself.”

Deal said a lot of the audience mentioned to him how truly real it felt, watching it unfold, and he agreed. “After it got rolling, the invective felt truly real, like a few situations I’ve found myself in around the District.” When I mentioned that a Huffington Post review said it was unauthentic because he had used his friends as the antagonists, Deal laughed. “They should’ve been in my place, then. It certainly felt real to me.”

Deal (seated) in the middle of his "Redskin" performance. (c) Darby

Deal (seated) in the middle of his “Redskin” performance. (c) Darby

Tara Houska, a board member of Not Your Mascots and a big proponent of the name change movement in the District, was one of the audience members. “The experience of watching Indigenous-based racism being hurled at a Native was difficult, to say the least,” she said. “Some of those phrases hit too close to home, and brought me back to moments in which I’ve experienced racism. At times, it was hard to keep in mind that it was a performance. I wanted to yell at the antagonizers to back off, and felt the hurt Gregg must have been feeling.”

Both Houska and Deal were also participants in the recent Daily Show segment that showed a panel of team fans and a panel of Indigenous people who, after separate discussions, confronted each other through the show’s direction. The segment has had mixed reaction in the press, with a lot of sympathy generated for the four white fans (who all self-identified as some fraction of various tribes, but with no real knowledge of their heritage – or, in one case, how generational fractions work). The incidents taped at FedEx field later between some of the Native panelists (specifically, the 1491s) and fans weren’t shown, which is unfortunate.

“Honestly, both the Daily Show and my art performance felt very similar,” said Deal. “The racism against Indigenous people in this country is so ingrained it it’s culture that the only way a team could exist as a mascot (which is defined as a clown, a court jester, by the way…nice ‘honor’) in the first place. The Washington Redskins–and other Indian mascots–are a really good illustration of not only how disconnected America is from it’s own history, but how disconnected it is from the issue of equality towards Indigenous people is. We are literally sitting on an issue where a significant amount of this country’s Indigenous are saying ‘it’s offensive’ and the answer is ‘no, it’s not offensive at all!’”

Gregg Deal with "Colonialism"

Gregg Deal with “A Nice Can of Colonialism”

Deal went on to say the whole movement to change the name isn’t really about offense, but about equality. “What you’re looking at is the tip of a very big iceberg of issues that are simply illustrated by this specific issue. The fact that we don’t seem to own our identity enough for someone to allow us to assert that identity appropriately, but that a corporate sports team is making billions from our image and likeness and has the audacity to fly it under the flag of honor is insanity,” he said. “Let’s be honest here, it’s not about honor, tradition, or any other lame excuse Dan or his constituents are saying. It’s about money, and the fans have all bought into supporting one of this country’s financial top one percent.”

Houska felt that Deal’s passion really came through in his performance piece, and she applauded him for taking a stand in such a public way. “I think it was a very in-your-face method to get locals aware that Natives experience racism, including the racist imagery and name of the Washington team,” she said. “We have all experienced being belittled and told to ‘get over it.’ I hope that people walked away with a sense of understanding that microaggression is a very real and damaging thing. And how it feels to be deluged by caricatured Natives via the Washington football team and having no say in it, despite being the subject of that caricature.”

Deal agreed. “I believe the term REDSKIN, if it belongs anywhere…it belongs to Indigenous people. In the same way the Black community essentially own the N-word,” he said. “While there are different schools of thought on that word and it’s usage in the Black community, it’s understood that if you use that word outside the Black community, you’re a certain type of person. The word ‘redskin’ belongs to us, and it’s not up to [non-Indigenous people] how it’s used.”

For more information on the name change social media movement, visit Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, Not Your Mascots, or follow the #changethename hashtag on Twitter.

The Daily Feed, The Mall

The NGA French Galleries Reinstallation

Photo courtesy of jcm_DC
Four Dancers
courtesy of jcm_DC

Last weekend the National Gallery of Art reopened the Nineteenth-Century French Galleries, which contain works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Modigliani and Picasso.

The gallery now organizes the paintings thematically and provides textual panels to help visitors understand the reasoning behind the new groupings. In addition, thirteen of the paintings have been restored.

I went last Saturday and was blown away by both the beauty on display and the enthusiasm of the visitors around me. In fact, I was so amazed by the Cézanne pieces that I ran out of time and missed Monet. However that shouldn’t be a problem: the NGA’s price tag (always free) and nearness to Metro mean I can always…Gauguin. Yes, that’s a little Post-Impressionist humor for your Friday.

Downtown, Entertainment, The Daily Feed

Gaia Returns to the Corcoran on Saturday

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘oparrish’

On November 19th, Gaia will make a triumphant return to the Corcoran after a sold-out party held there over the summer. This evening of music, visual and performance art – even a bit of magic – is sure to please anybody looking for an arty alternative to the usual nightclub experience.

For one night, the D.C.-based Gaia collective of DJs, musicians, artists, dancers, and more will take over the Corcoran space to create an interactive, multimedia experience which actively engages with the visual art on display in the gallery and the architecture of the building itself.
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Downtown, Special Events

We Love Parties: Corcoran’s NOW At Night

Now At Night 9

On October 21st, the Corcoran Gallery of Art opened its doors for the second annual NOW At Night. Organized by the museum’s Contemporaries committee to support emerging and mid-career contemporary artists, many of the most bold-face names of Washington’s art and culture worlds were in attendance.
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The Daily Feed

NOW at Night Lights Up the Corcoran on Friday

Photo by Dakota Fine, Courtesy of Corcoran Gallery of Art

This Friday night, you will want to put on a suit or party dress and head over to the Corcoran Gallery of Art for NOW at Night. Presented by the Corcoran Contemporaries, a group of arts patrons with a particular interest in supporting contemporary art, NOW at Night benefits NOW at the Corcoran, the institution’s dedicated contemporary gallery.

By no means an old-fashioned charity event, NOW at Night promises to be more of a chic, hip party. Remember our coverage of the gallery’s spring affair, ARTINI? For NOW at Night, however, instead of focusing on the elaborate cocktails, eyes will be on multimedia entertainment from the renowned Paul D. Miller, AKA DJ Spooky, a special viewing of 30 Americans, and a last chance to catch the current NOW exhibition, Chris Martin: Painting Big before it closes.

Tickets are still available and are for sale on the Corcoran’s website through Wednesday, October 19. Advance purchase is required – tickets will not be available at the door.

Now, go order tickets and start thinking about what you are going to wear!

Foggy Bottom, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: 30 Americans at Corcoran Gallery of Art

Kehinde Wiley, Sleep, 2008. Oil on canvas, 132 x 300 inches. Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

At Tuesday night’s preview of 30 Americans, a representative of the Corcoran told the story of how, in 1940, a young, female, African-American artist secretly entered a contest held by the gallery, sending a white friend to drop off the painting because she feared she would not be allowed past the building’s grand front stairs because of the color of her skin. Lois Mailou Jones won the contest and had the prize mailed to her so she would never have to show her face.

Seventy-one years later, Ms. Jones’ painting is held in the Corcoran’s permanent collection and the gallery is hosting a powerful exhibit of contemporary African-American artists which has already generated tremendous excitement in advance of the October 1st public opening.

One of the most-anticipated openings hitting the walls of DC galleries (in a season that is proving to be crowded with buzzed-over exhibits), 30 Americans brings together three decades of influential African-American artists, both household name and lesser-known, in a variety of media. The principle by which they are organized is that all seventy-six works on display (by, in fact, thirty-one American artists) grapple with the concept of identity – particularly but not exclusively race – in modern American life.
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Special Events, We Love Arts

June Happenings at SAAM

Photo courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum

Looking for some great things to do over the summer while the tourists flood in? There are several great programs (free!) being hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) in Penn Quarter this month. Take some time to check them out!

Opening Night of the IV BrazilDocs Documentary Film Week: Santiago
June 9, 7 p.m.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery host the opening-night film, “Santiago,” of the IV BrazilDocs Documentary Film Week, sponsored by the Cultural Section of the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, DC. In 1992, João Moreira Salles, one of Brazil’s foremost documentary filmmakers, began shooting a film about Santiago, the butler in his childhood home, who had lived a rich and vivid life. Through the film’s personal narrative, Salles addresses the elements of memory and identity that are crucial to the documentary genre.

The House I Live In
June 11, 4 p.m.
A theatrical presentation by Catherine Ladnier chronicles life in America from New Year’s Eve in 1939 through the end of World War II. Music underscores dramatic readings of letters written by servicemen and their loved ones, which recount the lingering effects of the Great Depression, America’s involvement in World War II, life on the home front, the bravery of soldiers, and gratitude for peace. In conjunction with “To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America.”

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Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Art

Photo by Scott Suchman

If you could take the premise Yasmina Reza’s “Art” and turn it into an episode of Seinfeld, it would have been a classic.

Just imagine George Costanza marching into Jerry’s apartment to see a blank white 5’ x 4’ canvas…

Jerry: George! Behold my latest acquisition!

George: What is it?

Jerry: It’s an Antrios!

George: Antrios?

Jerry: Antrios!

George: Never heard of him.

Jerry: Well he’s a classic- and this painting will be as well! I got it at such a steal!

George: How much?

Jerry: $200,000. What do you think?

George: I am speechless. I am without speech.

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The Daily Feed, We Love Arts

Have a Say in SAAM’s 2012 Art of Video Game Exhibition

Photo courtesy of
‘BrySi | Bryan Simon’
courtesy of ‘Joriel “Joz” Jimenez’

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is inviting the public to help select the video games that will be included in its upcoming exhibition “The Art of Video Games,” which opens in Washington, DC on March 16, 2012. Voting is taking place online beginning today and running through April 7. A valid e-mail address is the only requirement to vote.

The exhibition is the first to explore the 40-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies. Chris Melissinos, founder of Past Pixels and collector of video games and gaming systems, is the curator of the exhibition.

The website offers participants a chance to vote for 80 games from a pool of 240 proposed choices in various categories, divided by era, game type, and platform; winning games will be displayed in the exhibition as screen shots and short video clips. The website includes an online forum where gaming enthusiasts can campaign for particular games and voice their opinions about the selections. The games on the voting site were selected for their graphic excellence, artistic intent, and innovative game design. Results will be available online in May. Continue reading

Comedy in DC

More art Congressional Republicans should censor while they’re at it

Photo courtesy of
‘The Darwin Sisters, Censored’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

No doubt you’ve heard by now that some Congressional Republicans have been making a fuss over a Portrait Gallery exhibition that deals with gay and lesbian identity in the arts. One installation has been removed already, and no word yet if additional works will be taken down from the exhibit.

I know that our good and patriotic elected representatives, having solved all other problems facing the United States in these times of global strife and economic upheaval, will be anxious to root out any other lurking homosexual undertones in our publicly-funded art while using our plentiful surplus tax dollars to promote good old-fashioned American values, like censorship, for example.  So allow me to make a few suggestions about dirty, offensive works of public art that should have their funding examined right away. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Not an Arts Fair, Not a Book Fair

Nope, it’s the 11th Biennial Book Arts Fair and Conference, and it’s going on this weekend (November 5-7) in Silver Spring at the Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center.  Rather than try to explain this unique event myself, I’ll let their website do the talking:

“Now in its third decade, the fair will showcase a dynamic array of innovative book art, limited edition prints, fine papers, and specialty tools along with a rich program of notable speakers, demonstrations, and special exhibitions. This three day event will connect international artists, scholars, collectors, publishers, and art lovers. Serving to inform and inspire, the Book Arts Fair and Conference is a celebration of the printed form and the book as art.”

So if you’re into books, art, or both, this is just the ticket for you.  Be sure to check out their events page for a schedule of all of the cool activities going on this weekend.

The Daily Feed

Fiona Tan Exhibit Opens

Photo courtesy of
‘Sackler Gallery’
courtesy of ‘clio1789′

Seeing any exhibit at the Sackler Gallery is an inspiring experience, but seeing Fiona Tan’s first major U.S. exhibition at the Sackler Gallery is just phenomenal. The renowned contemporary artist will be on view at the Sackler Gallery September 25 through January 16, 2011 with Fiona Tan: Rise and Fall.  The artist will be showing a collection of video and photography, “exploring the individual’s place in a world increasingly shaped by global culture”.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is located at 1050 Independence Ave, SW.  For more information contact 202-633-1000.  Admission is free.

The Daily Feed

Afternoon Video Delight

I always need an afternoon pick me up.  Some days it comes in the form of dark chocolate, but today it is all about this video.

NOW at the Corcoran’s inaugural exhibition presents new work by Spencer Finch.  This video gives you a peek into Finch’s magical world of perception and sensation.  Some trippy (and fascinating) stuff if you ask me.

The exhibit will be on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art through January 23, 2011.

Downtown, Entertainment, Media, Penn Quarter, Special Events, The District, We Love Arts

September at SAAM

Photo courtesy of
‘Kogod Courtyard’
courtesy of ‘BrianMKA’

So now that the tourists are (mostly) gone, time to get out and hit our various museums and their great programs and exhibitions! There’s a lot going on this month at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) and we’re going to run down the list for you. Programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated; the SAAM is located in Penn Quarter at 8th and G Streets, NW. Note that some programs are at the Renwick Gallery at 17th and Pennsylvania and are noted accordingly.

Intersections/Intersecciones (Sept. 10, 6:30 p.m.)
Artists Kathy Vargas, María Martínez-Cañas, and Martina López discuss the intersection of Latino culture and gender identity in their work. Moderated by Muriel Hasbun, associate professor of fine art photography at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. No tickets required; seating available in McEvoy Auditorium on a first-come, first-served basis.

Art à la Cart (Sept. 12, Noon – 3 p.m.)
Travel throughout the galleries to find interactive carts where kids can handle brushes, palettes, bison hide, bottle caps, and quilt squares. Ages 7-12. Pick up your Art à la Cart map and passport at information desks located in the F Street and G Street lobbies.

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The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Jason Wright

Jason Wright, Artist – Image Courtesy of Jason Wright

You normally don’t here the terms extreme sports and art in the same sentence, so I was quite intrigued when I heard about Jason Wright’s show called Take You Home – on display at Gallery Plan B. You see, Wright lives the dual-lifestyle of professional skydiver (check out the video below) and knife painter, effortlessly swooping in-and-out of each role, and drawing inspiration from these experiences in order to bring something fresh to the art scene.  In this interview, Wright talks with WLDC about his work, his passion for life, and what it is like to live in D.C. every summer.

We Love DC:  How did you get to be where you are today? Artist and professional athlete isn’t the most common title to have.

Jason Wright: I grew up in Hawaii, and Hawaii is still home for me.  While living there I was completely immersed in that culture, skateboarding and surfing all the time.  It was at this point that art fused with me and I began illustrating for skateboards.  In that kind of art culture you also get to experience things like music (I was in multiple bands) and even the culinary arts (I wanted to be a chef at one point), the art world is very friendly and was a perfect fit for my free spirited type of personality.  I always followed my own path in life and let my passion lead the way.  Next, I ventured into snowboarding and because of injury it was taken away from me, but all of the traveling I got to do at the professional level was good for inspiration – meeting different people and attending different galleries.

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The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Interview with MIJA

Image Credit: MIJA Jewelry

In less than four years, Michelle Guest has turned her passion for art and jewelry design into a thriving business.  MIJA Jewelry is literally everywhere, and has graced the pages of almost every fashion magazine and tabloid – decorating a truly A-list clientele (Gwenyth Paltrow and Ellen Pompeo are huge fans).  In this We Love DC exclusive interview, the designer and Glover Park resident lets us know a little bit more about what makes her collection special and where she goes to find inspiration in her very own backyard.

We Love DC: What is MIJA?

Michelle Guest: MIJA is a combination of the first two letters of my name (MIchelle) and the first two letters of my sister’s name (JAni). My sister was the one who really inspired me to start the business by creating a collection of children’s jewelry.  The company has since expanded and now also features a huge collection [of] women’s jewelry.  She really encouraged me to jump into a business I initially knew nothing about.  If it was not for her, I’m not sure I would have ever done it!

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The Daily Feed, We Love Arts

Win 2 Tickets to Phillips After 5!

Photo courtesy of
‘The Phillips Collection 2523′
courtesy of ‘yospyn’

Looks like the Phillips Collection took my light criticism to heart last Friday because they have decided to hold a contest to see who can come up with the best alternative name for the Pousette-Dart exhibit – which is currently titled, Predominantly White Paintings.

All you have to do is go to their Facebook Page and submit something exciting, alluring, or at least, improved.

Two tickets to Phillips After 5 this Thursday will be awarded to the winner.

The Daily Feed

The Way We See It

The Way We See It, Brochure, 2010

Through their work, artists are able to convey and share their most personal thoughts and feelings with the public.  And the photography exhibit The Way We See It is the perfect example of young photographers doing just so.

The non-profit AED’s Idea: Exchange is a new effort dedicated solely to promote dialogue and communication on social and developmental issues. AED is inaugurating the Idea: Exchange with the photography exhibit The Way We See It: Young Photographers Examine, Define and Change Their World, showcasing the work created by youth from D.C. and around the world who use the art of photography to “reveal their lives, speak out about social issues, and advocate for better public policies”.

Now that is inspiring.

The exhibit will be open Wednesdays through Fridays, June 18th through September 3rd, from 2-7 PM.

The Idea: Exchange is located at the corner of Connecticut Ave and T St, NW.

The Daily Feed

All Female Art Exhibition

Photo courtesy of
‘Rothko Colour’
courtesy of ‘Edward Hoover’

Would you like to support local artists and a local charity all in one night?  Sounds pretty awesome to me.

The Art Registry is hosting an art exhibition and fundraiser to benefit Dress for Success on Thursday evening.  The event will feature seven female artists (six are local) whose work will be up for sale at the event.  Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20, and the cost include hours d’ oeuvres, wine, and of course, the opportunity to help a great cause.

The artists to be featured are: Joey Manlapaz, Anne Marchand, Leah Matthews, Karen Smul, Sandy Wexler, Catherine White, and Shawn Yancy (Fox 5 News Anchor).

The event will be on Thursday from 6-9 PM at the the Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar in Dupont.  For more information call 703-798-8717.