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Transformation and Continuity in Lakota Culture:
The Collages of Arthur Amiotte, 1988-2014

The Collages of Arthur Amiotte, 1988-2014

The Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center is pleased to collaborate with the South Dakota State Historical Society to bring the work of renowned Lakota artist and scholar Arthur Amiotte to the Akta Lakota Museum.

Born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1942, Amiotte has become one of the nation's most celebrated Native American artist, with artwork in the Joslyn, Hood, Whitney, and Denver art museums, the Minneapolis Institute and the Akta Lakota's own Permanent Collection.

Amiotte is perhaps best known for his signature use of mixed media collage to create a visual cultural biography of the Lakota that highlights the steps they took toward assimilating to European-American culture. He juxtaposes imagery from traditional Lakota culture with images that represent white culture. For instance, a single collage may include historical drawings from other Native American artists, found imagery from the Western world (such as advertisements, receipts, ledger books, and magazine articles), and photographs of his family and Pine Ridge. These seemingly incongruous images layered together offers a sense of the cultural confusion the Lakota experienced during the process of assimilation and pays tribute to a collective Lakota culture.

Amiotte's creative method is very process and researched oriented. He pores over photographs, historical periodicals and illustrated publications dating from 1870 to 1930 in antique stores, old book shops, and flea markets across the U.S. and Europe. As he studies the images, he strives to make sure they all represent the same historical period. The images and photocopied onto thin paper, sized and arranged into the composition, intricately cut, and laminated to create a hybrid collage composition. The process requires several layers of images, ledger paper, drawings, and handwriting as well as a masterful eye for the visual-special relationships. The end product is a consistently transparent view of the transformation and continuity of Lakota culture.

One image that echoes throughout many of Amiotte's collages is a photograph of a Matheson Six touring car by John Anderson. Amiotte depicts Lakota men in full ceremonial dress riding in the car. Although it appears somewhat comical, viewers of his work should not take the significance of this image lightly. Amiotte explains that "the automobile is the symbolic vehicle of social and cultural change my people have had to ride in order to survive a world order driven by change and progress."

Amiotte's background is rife with traditional Lakota artistry that he acquired from his maternal grandmother, Christina Standing Bear, who was skilled in the art of tanning, beadwork, and quilling. Equally significant is the spiritual influence of Lakota shaman and Sun Dance priest Pete Catches. Among Amiotte's strongest artist influences is Oscar Howe. In fact, after meeting Howe, Amoitte realized he could develop his artistic voice by incorporating, rather than marginalizing, his Lakota background into contemporary art-making techniques. Thus, his signature style emerged.

The Collages of Arthur Amiotte, 1988-2014

Not only a renowned artist, Amiotte is a sought-after scholar, educator, and speaker on Lakota art and culture. He has served in an advisory role to the director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and to the Presidential Council for the Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center. Amiotte has also served as a commissioner of the Department of Interior's Indian Arts and Crafts Board and member of the Regents Council of the Institute of the American Indian Arts.

Transformation and Continuity in Lakota Culture: The Collages of Arthur Amiotte, 1988-2014 will be on display at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center from May 4 through October 1, 2015.

For more information contact the museum at 800-0798-3452 or aktalakota@stjo.org.

Exhibit Schedule and Venues
May 5 — Oct. 1, 2015 AKta Lakota Museum Chamberlain
Oct. 16 — Jan. 9, 2016 Dahl Art’s Center Rapid City

 

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