“Prior to the building of Grand Coulee Dam, the upper Columbia River watershed was an isolated area more affiliated with the frontier than as a testament to one of mankind’s most remarkable engineering achievements. Fifteen miles north stood the Colville Indian Agency, where then unknown artist Clyfford Still became personally aware of the inequity of tribal rights and representation.” — Michael Holloman
In 1936, Clyfford Still co-founded an artists’ colony in Nespelem, the Indian Agency on the Colville Reservation in Washington state. During his time there, Still sketched and photographed the Native Americans whose livelihoods had been negatively impacted by the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam by the U.S. government. Join this virtual program, presented in partnership with Denver Month of Photography, featuring a conversation between Milo Carpenter, CSM associate digital archivist and Michael Holloman, Washington State University associate professor and member of the Colville Confederated Tribes. Their conversation will shed light on the creation and context of these photographs.
If you do not have access to Zoom, stream the program live on YouTube.
Carpenter will join the program from the archival research lab at CSM and Holloman will join from the galleries of an exhibition currently on view at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. They will focus on one of the photographs in CSM’s newly reinstalled archival display cases, Portrait of a woman in traditional Native American dress, taken in July 1936 in Nespelem. The photograph will serve as an introduction to Nespelem and the Colville Confederated Tribes, Coulee Dam, and how Still found his way there. Carpenter will also discuss what the Museum has learned about the photograph from field and diary notes, Still’s perspectives on photography, the artist’s preferences for sketching vs. taking photographs. Holloman will share the cultural and historical significance of the photograph’s content and will discuss the larger history and context of artists photographing indigenous communities.
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