Native American Heritage Month: Wendy Red Star, Star Wallowing Bull, and Julie Buffalohead

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we are featuring Indigenous artists and their work that we hold in our permanent collection on our blog, social media, and Collection Highlight E-Newsletters. Our intention is to both recognize the varied contributions of Indigenous artists while acknowledging how their works are disproportionately underrepresented in museum collections nationwide, including here at WAM.

We are in the process of editing our land acknowledgement statement to additionally address the active work the museum is doing in support of Native American arts and Indigenous communities here in the Twin Cities. Our current statement reads:

The Weisman Art Museum acknowledges the Dakota peoples on whose land we are on. We thank them and their relatives for their care of the land, and we recognize their continuing connection to the land, waters, and community. We pay our respects to them and their culture; both past and present.

Read on to learn more about three groundbreaking contemporary artists: Wendy Red Star, Star Wallowing Bull, and Julie Buffalohead.

Wendy Red Star and her daughter are seated on a couch covered in blanket, quilts, and other textiles. A colorful, patterned background is behind them, with a different colorful, patterned background on the floor.
Wendy Red Star, Apsáalooke Feminist #2, 2016, digital print on archival silver rag, 34 × 41 ins. Gift of Loren G. Lipson.

Wendy Red Star

Indigenous peoples and cultures have been grossly exploited and misrepresented by white artists throughout history for Western pleasure and entertainment. In photography specifically, falsified images such as those of Edward Curtis—whose work we also hold in our collection—romanticize and commercialize Native people, simultaneously working to define, oppress, and erase the lived histories and cultures of individuals.

Wendy Red Star works to reconnect reality and perception in Apsáalooke Feminist #2, positioning herself and her daughter Beatrice in front of the camera wearing colorful Crow garments. Raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, Red Star explores the historical and contemporary relationships between her cultural heritage and colonialist structures and incorporates aspects of her daily surroundings and experiences. Red Star’s work is created from deep historical and archival research, and she often utilizes cliched representations of Native Americans in her work to shed light on stereotypical perceptions and offer new perspectives. Intergenerational collaboration is also a crucial factor in her artistic process. Red Star currently resides in Portland, OR.

There is no clear background and foreground, but the focal point is an animal-like figure wearing intricately patterned and crying. Around them is a series of scenes—a shooting star, a figure drinking alcohol, horses and buffalo, and other brightly-colored patterns and symbols.
Star Wallowing Bull, The Tears of a Broken Hearted Ojibway "Shame"-n, color pencil on paper, 22.25 x 30 ins. Gift of the Frances M. Norbeck Fund.

Star Wallowing Bull

The work of Star Wallowing Bull, Ojibwe-Arapaho and member of the White Earth Nation in Minnesota, is often compared to that of American pop artists. Growing up in a large Native American community in South Minneapolis, he became exposed to both American pop art, as well as the work of local Native artists. Watching his father, artist Frank Big Bear, use colored pencils in his own work, Wallowing Bull took on the medium as his own, manipulating its vibrancy to illustrate intersections of Native and U.S. pop culture. Incredibly intricate and heavily layered with symbolism and iconography,Tears of a Broken Hearted Ojibwe “Shame”-n draws on influences from both Wallowing Bull’s Ojibwe and Arapaho heritage and American pop culture references—integral themes across his work.

At the foreground is a half-human, half-coyote figure crouching and holding arrows, a bow at their feet. Behind this figure is a second coyote figure adorned in a red dress operating a camera while a life-size, plastic cowboy figurine aims a gun. The bottom of the image is washed in reds and browns, and the background is washed in greens and blues.
Julie Buffalohead, Nanabozho and Coyote’s War Party, 2000, oil on canvas, 51 x 50 ins. Gift of the Frances M. Norbeck Fund

Julie Buffalohead

An enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, Julie Buffalohead calls on personal and cultural narratives in her work, visually critiquing the American Old West and its stereotypical representations of Native American people and cultures. 

In Nanabozho and Coyote’s War Party, Buffalohead depicts herself as Nanabozho, an Ojibwe hero figure and the son of a spirit father and mortal mother who can transform himself into any animal or object in nature. Here, Nanabozho has the ears and tail of a coyote, an animal notoriously known as a trickster in many Native stories. Behind Nanabozho, a second coyote figure adorned in a red dress operates a camera while a life-size, plastic cowboy figurine aims a gun. Influenced by cultural traditions of storytelling, Buffalohead often centers animals, anthropomorphism, and nature as subjects in her work.