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Featuring Amy Yellowtail-White Man Runs Him, Apsáalooke. 2019 Indigenous Goddess Series Oil, Acrylic, gold leaf, digital painting print on velvet paper, on canvas 40"(h) x 30"(w) gallery-wrapped edge canvas
A representative of Ben's new series of work "Indigenous Goddesses", this painting is the largest in the body of work. Featured is Grandma Amy Yellowtail-White Man Runs Him, a matriarch of many Apsáalooke people who continue to carry her legacy and teach it to our present and future leaders.
The use of Halos is not new to Native Art, and Ben Pease is not the first to employ them. Although, the artist does not intend to deify, or even sanctify. He only seeks to focus on the figure to reflect the Apsáalooke belief that Women, are the holiest living beings, given they carry the ability to give life and act as the binder/glue which keeps culture, tradition, and society moving. These halos are not meant to fully carry Christian metaphor but mainly to represent our cyclical Indigenous beliefs and cultures. The artist has also said these shapes represent that blending, mixing, melding, and layering of our contemporary Native American cultures and religions. Westward expansion bore the Christian tide to the Apsáalooke, and its effects have been horrible & beautiful, just as has occurred with many other cultures before & after. Pease intends the use of the halo, to also represent the contrast of culture, religion, & belief.
The floral series juxtaposed with the arrangement of the figure and halo is meant to seek progress on an interpersonal understanding of beauty and its nemesis the popular aesthetic. The artist’s use of florals to represent this draws from history’s views on flowers themselves, as symbols of divine beauty & creation.
Florals in our contemporary times have become the epitome of beauty and hyper feminized in western pop culture when most flowering plants have both male & female parts. When thinking about where these definitions lay, I can’t help but imagine the contrast hovering around how mainstream society imposes their views on Indigenous Women, and how many of our Native populations have absorbed those same views. Is it simply the delicacy, the sweet smell emitted by mature flowers to attract pollinators?
Think subjugation, objectification, romanticization, exotification, and sexualization.
I seek to explore what today’s definitions of beauty may be, especially upon our Indigenous Matriarchs, Mothers, Daughters, Sisters & Friends. I also seek to bring dialogue & discussion to those definitions which interact with our lives, perceptions, and perspectives.
My thoughts gravitate towards contributing towards perpetuating, more considerate standards on beauty and aesthetic while advocating for those age-old Indigenous philosophies on beauty.
The composition of this work is also representative of 17th- 20th Century depictions of like Whitsler's Mother by James McNeill Whistler, and Portrait of a Woman in a Chair by Frans Hals.
"The Prayer" will be featured in a major exhibition jointly organized by the Field Museum and the Neubauer Collegium in Chicago will open at both sites in March 2020. Image by Miranda Murdock Photography