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Artist biography


Sanborn, New York

Image of Jolene Rickard

Jolene Rickard's grandfather once said to her that "the Indian canoe is too swift for white culture. You have to decide which way you are going to go." A member of the Turtle Clan of the Tuscarora nation, Rickard has chosen a path that reflects deep connections with her cultural heritage. She is a highly respected professional photographer whose work has appeared at the Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona), Denver Art Museum, Memorial Art Gallery (Rochester, New York), Houston Center for Photography, Johnson Museum (Cornell University, Ithaca, New York), and Gallery of the American Indian Community House (New York, New York).

Her work is illustrated in many publications, notably Lucy Lippard's Mixed Blessings (Pantheon Books, 1990) and Alfred L. Bush and Lee Clark Mitchell's The Photograph and the American Indian (Princeton University Press, 1994).

Currently completing a doctorate in American Studies at the University of New York at Buffalo, she is a widely sought-after consultant, lecturer, and author of Native American art history. Her lectures and essays span a wide array of issues on historical and contemporary art and include, among others, examinations of Native American iconography, the "trickster" in art, Iroquoian women's beadwork, and the relationship between Native American and African-American art. Rickard has taught seminars and workshops on photography at many art centers, colleges, and universities. While teaching at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, one of her students was fellow "Sisters of the Great Lakes" artist Casey Munz.

Rickard uses her photography as a looking glass to examine ideas of native people and as a conduit of collective thought. Though her work often appears to be very modern, her portraits usually include tiny, red-colored designs that have specific meaning in Tuscarora culture. Rickard slyly and humorously juxtaposes seemingly incongruous visual elements to challenge viewers to reflect on the multiple levels of culture. This use of a visual element meant to tease or "trick" the viewer is an important aspect of American Indian life and the "trickster" character figures in Native American oral and visual traditions.

Artist's work

Image of Skywoman Looks Back by Jolene RickardObject measurements and display specifications:

Jolene Rickard
Skywoman Looks Back, 1995
Transparency with acrylic and red whip
steel structure and fluorescent lights
8"-21"  (diameter 45 1/2"-79")
Sisters of the Great Lakes Collection
MSU Museum 7594.24

Skywoman piece rests on free-standing open floor plinth/platform. Length & width = 88 x 88 inches;. height = c. 6 inches. Platform is constructed of four (44 x 44 inch) interlocking pieces. Use hex key to lock pieces in place. Fluorescent lights are placed underneath the piece.