The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art Joslyn Art Museum
Omaha, NE

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Joslyn Art Museum
2200 Dodge Street
Omaha, NE 68102-1292
(402) 342-3300


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Faces from the Interior: The North American Portraits of Karl Bodmer

Guy Goldstein

Faces from the Interior: The North American Portraits of Karl Bodmer
10/2/2021 - 5/1/2022

During the early 1830s, a dynamic network of Native American nations—largely unknown to non-Native people beyond trappers and traders—inhabited the Upper Plains region of North America. The Swiss draftsman Karl Bodmer (1809–1893) was one of the first European artist-observers to create a visual record of these communities’ leaders, lifeways, and homelands. Hired by the German naturalist Maximilian, Prince of Wied-Neuwied, Bodmer accompanied a scientific expedition from Saint Louis to the northwestern reaches of the Missouri River, a round trip of nearly five thousand miles, between April 1833 and May 1834. Intending to reveal what Maximilian called “the natural face of North America,” Bodmer produced numerous portraits of Indigenous people that record the lives of specific individuals. They also evidence the complexity of cultural encounters at a time when Euro-American settler colonization introduced disease, depleted natural resources, and led to the forcible removal of Indigenous people from their homelands.

Faces from the Interior: The North American Portraits of Karl Bodmer features over sixty recently conserved watercolors, drawn entirely from Joslyn’s renowned Maximilian-Bodmer collection. This includes portraits of individuals from the Omaha, Ponca, Yankton, Lakota, Mandan, Hidatsa, Assiniboine, and Blackfoot nations, among the many encountered by the travelers. A selection of Bodmer’s Missouri River landscapes and field sketches, as well as portraits made by the Mandan man Síh-Chidä (Yellow Feather) and prominent Mandan chief Mató-Tópe (Four Bears), reveal the dynamic cultural exchanges that characterized artistic production of this era. Bodmer’s acute sensitivity of observation and his subtle, refined brushwork provide an unparalleled level of detail that make these portraits particularly captivating. These details matter; every beaded design, carefully arranged feather, and painted robe carries meaning and tells a story. Indigenous knowledge bearers, artists, and scholars from the nations that Bodmer and Maximilian visited have contributed texts for this exhibition that highlight the diverse histories, beliefs, and practices embodied in the portraits.

Faces from the Interior premieres four short films (below)—contemporary portraits that testify to the enduring power of Bodmer’s images. Personal stories shared in these films illuminate generations of Indigenous teachings that bridge historical and contemporary featherwork and beadwork, dancing, tribal histories, and traditional ecological knowledge. Additionally, numerous Indigenous artists, scholars, and elders from communities that Karl Bodmer and Prince Maximilian visited contributed texts to the exhibition that examine the ongoing challenges and significances of these images of cultural encounter. Joslyn Art Museum gratefully acknowledges the participation and generosity of exhibition contributors and film participants.

The exhibition’s accompanying catalogue is the first publication to focus on Bodmer as a portraitist. Catalogue essays examine Bodmer’s artistic practice within the context of nineteenth-century ethnography; the international dissemination of his images; and the ongoing significance of his work to Indigenous communities. Over fifty watercolor portraits are reproduced, accompanied by a selection of the artist’s landscapes and village sites.

Faces from the Interior was organized by the Margre H. Durham Center for Western Studies, Joslyn Art Museum, in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY). In Spring 2021, the exhibition was one of the first rotating installations to complement The Met’s new installation of The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native American Art. After Joslyn, the exhibition travels to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (Fort Worth, TX; October 29, 2022–January 22, 2023).

Guy Goldstein
10/2/2021 - 1/2/2022

Guy Goldstein (Israeli, born 1974) maintains a hybrid practice as a visual artist and musician. Exploring the shifting relationships between sound and image, Goldstein considers how sonic and visual experiences overlap and inform one another. During Fall 2019, Goldstein lived in Omaha for one month at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. The inaugural resident artist in Bemis’s Sound Art + Experimental Music Program, Goldstein spent his time in Omaha conceptualizing a new, multimedia project for Joslyn's Riley Contemporary Artists Project (CAP) Gallery.

Goldstein’s work often responds to historical and contemporary narratives that shape the identity of a place. The Bemis building—a warehouse built in 1887 for the Bemis Inc., a bag company—and the Old Market’s history as a hub of labor and manufacturing provided inspiration for Goldstein’s Omaha project. Scouring Bemis’s fourth floor—a vast materials archive available to artists-in-residence—Goldstein discovered bags filled with work gloves that became the starting point for Der Sekundenmacher, 2020, a video the artist filmed during his residency. In the video, Goldstein lumbers through Bemis’s vast spaces with scales strapped to his feet, a commentary on how we “measure” the value of labor. The artist laboriously collects the gloves and stuffs them into a piano, which he then attempts to play. Following production of the video, Goldstein sewed the gloves together to create a tapestry-like wall hanging that removes the functionality of these items while evoking the many tasks they may have seen.

Guy Goldstein's exhibition at Joslyn is supported by the Shirley and Leonard Goldstein Supporting Foundation.

Karen and Doug Riley Contemporary Artists Project Gallery exhibitions are supported by Douglas County, Catherine & Terry Ferguson, and Sara Foxley.

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