For the second year in a row Diné artist Will Wilson will set up a working portrait studio in the museum’s East Sculpture Garden. Using an old fashioned, large format camera and the historic wet plate collodion process, the artist will invite a select group of indigenous artists and arts professionals to engage in the ritual interchange that is the photographic studio portrait. The particular beauty of this old photographic process references a bygone era and the historic images that continue to contribute to society’s collective understanding of Native American people. Wilson’s project sparks an intervention into this history of photography revealing the multidimensional nature of photography and the multiplicity of meanings and possibilities that photographs can generate.
Collaborating with his sitters, Wilson indigenizes the photographic exchange, drawing attention to the relationship between the picture taker and the person posing. Ultimately the artist wants to ensure that the subjects of these portraits are participating in the re-inscription of their customs and values in a way that will lead to a more equal distribution of power and influence in the cultural conversation. This exchange yields a series of contemporary tintypes whose alchemical process and enigmatic surface visually bend time and underscore how much of our understanding of our world is acquired through fabricated methods. As a gesture of reciprocity the artist gifts the sitter the tintype produced during the exchange with the caveat that he be granted a non-exclusive right to create and use a high resolution scan of their image for his own artistic purposes.
William (Will) Wilson is a Diné photographer who spent his formative years living in the Navajo Nation. Born in San Francisco in 1969, Wilson studied photography at The University of New Mexico (MFA, writing a dissertation on the photography of Milton S. Snow), and at Oberlin College. He is currently a 2013-14 Rollin and Mary Ella King Fellowship artist-in-residence at the School for Advanced Research and recently exhibited his CIPX project at the Denver Museum of Art.
The public is invited to view this public portrait studio in action Saturday and Sunday August 17 and 18 in the New Mexico Museum of Art’s East Sculpture Garden from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.