For seven years, artist Tamara Burgh has worked on a body of mixed-media pieces for a provocative exhibition titled The Encultured White Man: If the Indians Had Won. This exhibition, like much of her work, explores the intersection of the two worlds of her upbringing: her suburban American childhood and her Native American heritage. The artist combines photographic imagery with embroidery, beading, and other textile arts.
"My half-Eskimo father (d. 2003) experienced hurtful prejudices and other negative consequences growing up in the dominate white society of Nome, Alaska," writes Burgh. "I, on the other hand, grew up proud of my Native heritage. Recently a 'before and after' picture of a group of Native Americans began a query in my mind: before pictured them proudly dressed in native dress, after they were buttoned up and restricted with their hair cut off. I began to wonder, while gazing at these sad pictures, what if the indigenous peoples of America had prevailed over the white man?
"For this exhibit, The Enculturated White Man, I've juxtaposed contrasting elements to shock and challenge the viewer to reconsider a very different outcome to the Indian wars. I've altered somber, stayed, high-buttoned puritan folk pictured in early 20th century photographs: with face paint, masks, jewelry and animal fur. I beg the viewer to imagine proper well-bred Victorian ladies sequestered in dimly lit parlors embroidering, weaving and beading under the influence of brightly colored, symbolized, energetic, tribal patterns and ritual."
Raised in Colorado, Burgh graduated with a degree in studio art from Illinois State University. After spending time in Europe, Australia, Alaska, and eight years in New Mexico, she now lives and works in Arkansas, and finds inspiration in the writings of Joseph Campbell, Gary Zukav and J. Krishnamurti. To learn more about the creation of The Enculturated White Man, and to see other fine works by Tamara Burgh, please visit the artist's blog.