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Contemporary American Indian Photographer Larry McNeil Discusses the Legacy of Remington May 1 at the Clark

For Immediate Release

April 17, 2008

For more than a century, Frederic Remington’s art has been an integral part of the mythology of the West. Larry McNeil, contemporary photographer and professor of photography at Boise State University in Idaho, will share his response to Remington’s legacy and discuss how mythology and identity continue to shape his own work as a contemporary artist. McNeil, recently honored with a 2007 Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art, will present “Fly by Night Mythology: Making Art out of American Mythologies” on Thursday, May 1, at 7 pm, at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. The lecture is free.

McNeil’s bitingly clever imagery questions how representation shapes understanding. Like the trickster Raven that appears in many of his works, McNeil addresses serious questions with humor and wit. He upends stereotypes of Indians that circulate through art and mass media and provocatively recasts them to reveal deep insight into the experiences of American Indians. McNeil’s work is equally about the American experience, favored myths, what happens at the intersection of cultures, and how different people perceive a shared history. Through a discussion of his art, McNeil will offer further context for considering the legacy of Remington.

For curator Cody Hartley, the exhibition Remington Looking West is an opportunity to understand how Remington was able to generate such influential art. It is also a chance to consider alternatives to the West that Remington created. It was out of a desire to explore these alternatives, connecting Remington’s Old West with today’s society, that led Hartley to invite McNeil to Williamstown.

“Remington said things, wrote things, that are completely unacceptable by modern standards,” according to Hartley. “Rather than dismissing him as racist or xenophobic, it is more productive to try and understand why his art, often a visual expression of some rather unpleasant sentiments, has held such enormous appeal for generations of Americans.” Hartley believes, “to understand Remington’s work is to understand the power art has to shape how Americans think of themselves and understand their history. His art gave people images for their identity. It is so effective, so believable, that it runs the risk of simplifying a very complex history that involved many different peoples and events that occurred across an enormous and diverse region. Remington portrayed one side of the story, but he did it so well that it can be hard to see other sides. McNeil’s talk is a chance to think about other ideas while discovering how the West continues to be a creative well-spring for artists.”

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Remington shaped America’s vision of the West with illustration, sculpture, and painting. The exhibition Remington Looking West brings together the Clark’s iconic works by the artist with those from public and private collections to explore how he came to this vision and how it evolved throughout his career. Also included in the exhibition are photographs, drawings, and scrapbooks from his personal collection that allow you to “look over Remington’s shoulder” and understand his working process. Remington Looking West is on view through May 4.

The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown. The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (daily in July and August). Admission is free November 1 through May 31. Admission June 1 through October 31 is $12.50 for adults, free for children 18 and younger, members, and students with valid ID. For more information, call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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