STORYTELLING THROUGH ART

Deep in the heart of Brooklyn, the soul of Native American art and storytelling thrives! We’re sitting down with the man at the center of this culture.

Aired on January 4 & October 16, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

WHETHER SCULPTING OR PAINTING, JEFFREY GIBSON IS A MASTER OF COLOR TELLING THE STORY OF HIS NATIVE-AMERICAN HERITAGE THROUGH ART.

WE JOINED GIBSON IN THE STUDIO HE FIRST BECAME AN ARTIST.

TAKE A LOOK.

GROWING UP, IT'S SOMETHING I THINK ABOUT A LOT NOW.

YOU KNOW WHEN YOU'RE A FOREIGNER, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT OR WHAT YOU'RE HEARING ALL THE TIME.

SO YOU HAVE THIS KIND OF SUBJECTIVE COMPRESSION OF THE WORLD AROUND YOU THAT IS AN ESTIMATED GUESS.

I THINK ABOUT THAT A LOT IN TERMS OF HOW I USE MATERIAL.

I USE A LOT OF MATERIALS THAT I THINK MANY PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW THE CONTEXT THAT I'M DRAWING THEM FROM.

OR WHAT THE CULTURE IS.

MY FAMILY'S WAS IN OKLAHOMA AND MY FATHER WAS IN MISSISSIPPI.

ANTICIPATE THOSE CULTURES ARE EXTREMELY DIFFERENT.

SO WHEN I WOULD GO THERE, IT IS TO VISIT MY FAMILY.

I NEVER WANTED TO OBSERVE MY FAMILY.

WE WANTED TO BE A PARTICIPANT IN YOUR FAMILY.

WE DON'T SAY THAT IS NATIVE-AMERICAN.

I BEGAN THINKING, WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE QUILTS THAT GRANDMA MADE OR WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE JEWELRY SHE WORE OR THE DRESS THAT'S SHE MADE?

WHAT DID THE SONG MEAN SHE WOULD SING?

AND THEN IT BECOMES SOMETHING CULTURALLY SPECIFIC, I SUPPOSE.

I REALLY WANT TO TAKE PART IN ALL OF THESE THINGS.

I WANT TO KNOW HOW TO BE AND THAT STARTS OFF A PATTERN AND DESIGN AND COLOR CHOICES.

IT STARTS OFFER THE CHALLENGE OF WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH BEADS.

I WANTED TO MAKE SOUND OBJECT WORK.

AND OVER THE COURSE OF TIME, SOMETIMES THEY ARE MESHED TOGETHER.

I AM AM INTERESTED IN EXPLORING THE TRANSFORMTIVE NATURE OF MATERIALS AND HOW THE LANGUAGE CAN SHIFT FROM A BEADED TRIANGLE TO PAINTED TRY ANGLE TO A WOVEN TRIANGLE AND WHAT THOSE THREE DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE TRIANGLE MEAN.

THERE SF THIS PERIOD OF CLUB MUSIC THAT WITH THE TRANSITION OF AN LOG MUSIC INTO DIGITAL AND IT WAS THE SAMPLING AND TURN TABLES WHERE PEOPLE COULD SAMPLE MUSIC HAD AN IMPRESSION ON ME.

THE REPETTIVE NATURE OF REPEATING AND PICKING SOMETHING FROM ONE CONTEXT AND STICKING IT INTO ANOTHER.

I CAN SPEND THE TIME IN MY STUDIO MASHING UP, REMIXING, REMAKING, TAKING APART, RECONSTRUCTING.

I CAN INVITE OTHER PEOPLE TO TAKE PART IN THAT WITH ME.

I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT THE PROCESS.

WE ACKNOWLEDGE THE ASSISTANCE ALL THE TIME AS MUCH AS WE CAN.

IF IT WAS JUST ME MAKING, FOR INSTANCE, A PUNCHING BAG, WE WOULD BE SEEING ONE A YEAR.

THE LICENSE BETWEEN CRAFT AND FINE ART, THE DECORATIVE AND EMBELLISHMENT, ALL OF THOSE THINGS IN THIS ENVIRONMENT ARE EQUALIZED.

IF YOU LOOK AT THESE GARMENTS, THEY'RE SO LOUD AND COLORFUL.

WITH THAT AS MY INSPIRATION, THERE IS NO LIMIT TO THE COMBINATIONS OF COLORS.

IT'S MORE THINKING ABOUT WHAT THE COLOR DOES IN COMBINATION WITH EACH OTHER.

SO IT'S EITHER REAL YIND OF POP OR ELECTRIC OR REFLECTIVE OR OPTIC.

I DO HAVE AN ATTRACTION BETWEEN THE IDEA OF MINIMALISM AND HOW MINIMALISM LEADS TOWARDS, LIKE, MAX LOL DENSITY.

I USED TO THINK THAT IT WAS ABOUT MAINTAINING THIS QUIET, SILENT PLACE, LIKE, THIS VOID UNFILLED WITH THINGS.

NOW I REALIZE THIS IS AN EFFORT TO SEE HOW MUCH IS PRESENT IN A VERY SMALL SPACE OR IN A VERY LIMITED PALETTE.

THE IDEA IS TO, LIKE, SAY SLOW DOWN THE COLOR OF RED AND UNDERSTAND HOW MANY SHADES OF RED THERE ARE.

SLOW DOWN THE COLOR OF BLUE, UNDERSTAND HOW MANY SHADES OF BLUE TONES THERE ARE.

THEN IT OPENS UP INTO INCLUDING EVERY SINGLE COLOR.

MY TRAINING IS AS AN ENTIRELY PROCESSED BASED ABSTRACT ARTIST.

THE TEXT WAS ALWAYS MEANT TO NAME THIS ENTIRELY SUBJECTIVE LANGUAGE OF ABSTRACTION.

AND AT SOME POINT WHEN THE AUDIENCE WASN'T ABLE TO GET THE CONTENT, I DECIDED TO PUT THE TEXT DIRECTLY ON IT.

MOST OF THE TITLES, FOR INSTANCE, COME FROM APPROPRIATED LYRICS.

THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THESE WORDS DESCRIBE WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT.

THEY BECAME A REALLY BIG PART OF THE WORK FOR ME.

PEOPLE WHO ARE LOOKING AT MY WORK AT THE TIME WOULD ALWAYS QUESTION HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO WHO YOU ARE?

YOU KNOW?

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO YOU AS A NATIVE-AMERICAN PERSON, AS A GAY PERSON?

IS THIS SUBJECTIST SOMEHOW REPRESENTATIVE OF THAT EXPERIENCE?

AND IT SEEMED NO MATTER HOW HARD I SAY NO, IT'S NOT, IT ALMOST COMPOUNDED MORE FOR PEOPLE TO LOOK FOR CONNECTIONS IN THE WORK.

AT SOME POINT I DECIDED TO OWN THE WORDS NATIVE-AMERICAN TO OWN THE WORDS GAY AND NOT GIVE THEM ANY KIND OF POWER OVER DETERMINATION WHO I AM BUT I WAS FINE WITH THE WORK BEING DESCRIBED IN THAT WAY.

THIS IS TRUE.

THIS IS MY EXPERIENCE.

AND IN THE 20th CENTURY AT THE TIME AND EVEN TODAY, THAT'S VERY MUCH HOW WE DESCRIBE EACH OTHER.

I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WE'RE ALL VERY, VERY LAYERED, COMPLICATED PEOPLE.

AND OUR CONTEMPORARY WORLD, WE DON'T ALWAYS HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE THAT OR TO SHARE THAT WITH EACH OTHER.

BUT IT'S WHAT CAN YOU DO IN ART.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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