Within the context of the 92nd annual Indian Market, Hanska—born on North Dakota’s Standing Rock Reservation—questions steadfast stereotypes that have for generations loomed over Native American culture, and gives them his own spin.
Debuting this Friday at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and consisting of 12 ceramic pieces, STEREOTYPE: Misconceptions of the Native American, approaches passé concepts and repackages them in a way that makes spectators take a step back and think.
“Seven are stereotypes, four are responses to them, and one is my own,” Hanska tells SFR. He decided to include the last piece as a reflection on his own identity, how others perceive it, and what is ultimately real.
He calls the personal entry “The Luger” (pictured).
“I chose to do a series of Native stereotypes, so as I’m sitting here pointing the finger at the folly of pop culture, I figured it was important to show how it’s my own interpretation to what Native American is,” the imagemaker explains. The results “The Luger” brought with it, Hanska says, were both eye-opening and conflicting.
“It’s not true,” he says. “It can’t be true, because there are so many facets to who and what I am.”
He chose the boombox metaphor as an umbrella figure for the exaggerations and misconceptions pop culture has managed to inject into Native American life throughout generations.
“It’s a play on words,” he says. “We’re talking about stereotypes, so I’m using the stereo as a vessel; also, it is ultimately a symbol of—I would say—ethnic people, you know what I’m saying? It came out of the ghetto, and it motivated kids to play their own identity—blast their own identify through the dismal situation they were in.”
He elaborates on the choice: “Boomboxes are familiar; they span generations. I’m 34 years old, and I’m familiar with them. My parents are also aware of them, and the younger generations are as well, because of their nostalgic feel.”
Ultimately, Hanska says, he hopes the exhibit serves as a wakeup call to Natives and non-Natives alike.
“It’s a wash,” he says of the popular imagery. “People think, ‘That’s not who I am, so I don’t have to claim it at all.’”
The in-your-face message does more than challenge preconceived notions. “I want to destroy them,” he says. “I figured if I made them physical—by binding the image to an icon and labeling it as such— they’d be easier to destroy.”
“Also,” he reflects, “I’m just a guy. This is what I imagine happens in my head, but I don’t know if it’ll actually happen. I’m subject to delusions of grandeur,” he concludes with a laugh.
5-7 pm Thursday, Aug. 15. Free.
MoCNA South Gallery
108 Cathedral Place