STORYTELLING THROUGH ART

October 17, 2019 at 4:45 am

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.

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> 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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