(**WARNING: Contains faux-Indigenous nudity. Seriously.)
This guy might be the crushiest of my Man Crush Mondays. Yeah, I think so. His name is Nick Galanin. He’s Tlingit. Yes, another talented Alaska Native. More about him soon—first, let me indulge for a second.
Many people are scared to be exactly who they are nowadays; Native people are not exempt. In fact, we’ve been trained, through 500 years of genocide and white supremacy, to be extremely cautious of consequences for being TOO MUCH who we are (more on that later). Whether it’s the young Native man who feels apprehensive about wearing his beautiful braids to work because he thinks it might be just a little too Indian or being the talented Native high school student who won’t post exactly what she feels about higher education’s assimilative agenda on Facebook because it might affect her application to Stanford, it’s really hard to always be true to yourself.
I censor myself on a regular basis, believe it or not—I admire those who do not.
I notice lots of folks are throwing around the word “decolonization” recently. I’m not exactly sure what that word means, to be honest. But I’ll tell you what I THINK it means, and what makes sense: a Native being unafraid of the consequences of an establishment, which invariably upholds white supremacist values, is the most decolonized thing a Native person could do. During the genesis of Native/European relations, Natives who showed themselves to be too strong-willed or uncompromising were routinely publicly killed or their children stolen to set an example. From Verrazano kidnapping Indian children in 1524 to the many, many Native children stolen in the 20th century, to Coronado burning 200 Pueblos at the stake, the lesson was etched deep into our psyches:
“Indians, don’t you dare rise up and try to assert yourself or speak for yourself or be too damn Native, by God! Don’t speak up against white supremacy or against how Christianity has affected Native communities or against commodification of Native culture. The consequences will be very, very severe.”
Now, back to Nick: how dare you carve a sculpture of a Raven out of an actual Bible? Don’t you know that Natives (and non-Natives) literally burned at the stake for lesser offenses?
Anyway, this guy Galanin—the audacity of this guy. He’s a throwback to back before Natives were taught that we should be cautious or scared to take on an enemy against huge odds—unafraid. Decolonized.
I’m an undercover art fan; I don’t really “get” a lot of art simply because it’s not speaking loud enough. I like big, bad, bold art—art that has PLENTY of underlying meaning and depth, but screams out, “Bro, you gotta see this shit. This shit here is crazy.” I like beautiful but disturbing, but not just for the sake of being disturbing. No, I like disturbing for the purpose of creating new conversation and thought—Breaking Bad, Calvin and Hobbes, Grace Jones. Nick Galanin’s art does that for me.
A taxidermied wolf that cannot move because of the horrible effects of the environment on wildlife is disturbing; we’re Native, right? We don’t like to see our beloved wolves in this vulnerable, effed up state. But it also makes sense, “Yeah, we really ARE messing up the environment. All of us—Natives too! This stuff really IS happening.”
Activist art—hopefully that will inspire people to change behaviors. Big, bad, bold art. Unabashedly Native art. Unapologetic.
Not big and bad and bold enough? How about a nude non-Native female model (Nick assures that there will be a male version very soon) wearing a “traditional” Alaska Native mask, which is actually made in Asia?
Nick says, “The real strength for survival of indigenous knowledge and culture lies within the ability to freely and creatively represent our selves. The nude models wearing Indonesian made Tlingit curios in The Curtis Legacy echo the work of historical photographer Edward Curtis and his preconceived photographs of the noble savage. Ostentatious objectification of a culture defined through photography; a colonial paradigm.” I’ve heard Natives speak about the commodification of our culture, but this is the first time I’ve seen someone speak about it in sarcastic, shocking and very, very clear terms.
The crushiest of man-crushes.
I think you all can tell that I can go on and on about this brilliant brother. The more that I learn about him and his work, the more I want to know and see. Still, as is the case with EVERY SINGLE ONE of these Man Crush Mondays and Women Crush Wednesdays, the point is for you all to go out and learn more about them. These Natives are doing amazing stuff and we should definitely support them.
Well, Nick has a few things going on right now that could use your support. Number one, he has an exhibit called “Your Feast Has Ended” opening at the Frye Museum in Seattle, Washington on June 14. There is an opening reception on June 13th, and the gallery talk on the 14th. Please reserve your ticket for opening night (at 36200.blackbaudhosting.com/36200/Public-Opening-Your-Feast-Has-Ended-and-The-Unicorn-Incorporated) and plan to be there to support.
Oh yeah, did I mention that the brother sings AND plays music very beautifully as Silver Jackson. Here is an example from his upcoming album—this song is called “Perfect Mistake” (silverjackson.bandcamp.com/track/perfect-mistake). Please go support by listening to and ultimately purchasing his music. It’s hot.
(see what he did there?)
I’m excited to see what this dude can produce. He’s fearless, brilliant and handsome—that’s a pretty vicious combination. Please support this brother in all upcoming endeavors and let’s show that we support incredible stuff in Indian Country all.