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Jacob Meders: Familiar Territory | Closing Day

  • 10 E. Chicago Street, Chandler, AZ 85225

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Who gets to tell the story of Indians and cowboys?

This exhibition was inspired by 20th century images depicting glorified moments from westward expansion, a historical period often romanticized from a white perspective. These prints were once part of the City of Chandler’s collection but were not exhibited due to their problematic nature. While the original artist John Clymer may not have intended to offend or portray his subjects in a negative light, his imagery still perpetuates stereotypes and presents a one-dimensional narrative about Native Americans. Further, the original representations don’t reflect updated cultural understandings regarding the importance of empowering marginalized groups to tell their own stories.

After these prints were deaccessioned from the City’s collection, artist Jacob Meders (Mechoopda-Maidu) acquired and updated them to their current status. Viewers will immediately notice the meticulously blacked out figures, and perhaps wonder who they are and why they have been redacted. By removing the subjects from the prints, Meders visually represents federal policies – such as the 1883 code of Indian Offenses – advocating for the erasure of Native lands, language, culture, traditions, religion, and even people. By gold-leafing other areas in some of the prints, Meders highlights a history of resource extraction – led by colonizers – that has devastated our physical and spiritual environment, including the near-extinction of the bison and the receding water levels of the Colorado River, which remains an issue of utmost concern for Arizonans today.

With a deft hand, Meders carefully adds to and subtracts from the prints, centering an Indigenous viewpoint and asking viewers to reconsider the stories they think they know about the history of Manifest Destiny and the American West.

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