“As we face uncertainty about our lives in the wake of a pandemic, I find comfort in works by Native artists who create visions of a future where traditional knowledge and culture continue to thrive. Crow artist Wendy Red Star created a photography and fashion series, Thunder Up Above (2011) which imagines this presence in fantastical astrological landscapes. The series began when Red Star began designing futuristic powwow outfits, pulling inspiration from sources as diverse as Victorian sleeves and ‘70s fashion. By placing the figures in imaginary planetary environments, she also draws attention to the perception of Native people by European explorers to be as strange as aliens.
‘Each figure represented in the photographs stands as the First People (Natives) in the Final Frontier. I relate this to the first contact of Europeans to the “New World” and how strange they felt the Native communities were. Often disregarding Native people and culture as subhuman—or today—calling immigrants illegal aliens.’
—Wendy Red Star, 2020
This series is part of a broader movement categorized as Indigenous Futurism, where Native people are protagonists within science fiction. This expression in literature and the visual arts is a firm rejection of the limited stereotype of authentic Native people existing only in a historicized past. For a survey of other artists working in this genre, visit the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts of the Institute of American Indian Arts.”
—Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art
Wendy Red Star (American and Apsa’alooke, born 1981). Stands To The Sun, from the series Thunder Up Above, 2011. Pigment print on Fine Art Pearl. Gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D., 2017.25.3 © Wendy Red Star