I-Witness Culture: Frank Buffalo Hyde
Artist Frank Buffalo Hyde (Onondaga/Nez Perce) believes it is the artist’s responsibility to represent the times in which they live. Transforming street art techniques into fine art practices, his humorous and acerbic narrative artworks do exactly that. In I-Witness Culture, Hyde investigates the space where Native Americans exist today: between the ancient and the new; between the accepted truth and the truth; between the known and the unknown. Hyde, who created fourteen paintings and three sculptures for I-Witness, divides his contemporary narrative into three sections: Paranormal: The Truth is Out There; Selfie Skndns; and In-Appropriate.
Pre-millennium, if you asked anyone if Native Americans existed, they would tell you only in the past, in black and white photos. They are almost extinct, they would say, and their lands are gone. If you ever meet one, ask if you can touch their hair, take a picture of them as proof that you actually saw one—like Bigfoot they exist beyond the scope of normal experience.
Post-millennium, Native Americans are part of the digital age, the selfie age, where if something hasn’t been posted to social media, it never happened. We are sharing information at a rate that has never been possible before in human history: We no longer just experience reality; we filter reality through our electronic devices. Today’s Native artists use technology as a tool of Indigenous activism, a means to document, and a form of validation.
In a nation obsessed with sameness—afraid of difference—popular culture homogenizes indigenous cultures, "honoring" us with fashion lines, misogynistic music videos, or offensive mascots and Halloween costumes. Today, these stereotypes and romantic notions are irrelevant as a new generation of Native American artists uses social media to let the world know who they are. Today, we are the observers, as well as the observed. We are here, we are educated, and we define Indian art.