Textured Portraits: The Ken Blackbird Collection

Posted on: Mar 16 2017

Photojournalist Ken Blackbird Showcases Work at Gilcrease Museum Through August 27

Textured Portraits: The Ken Blackbird Collection is a traveling exhibition of the work of Ken Blackbird, a photojournalist with 30 years of experience photographing Native life on reservations in Montana and Wyoming. The 30 photographs selected for Textured Portraits reflect Blackbird’s exceptional visual artistry. His subjects are expressed in a range of photographic genres, from action photos to abstract studies of light and shadow. The exhibit will run at the Gilcrease Museum through August 27, 2017.

Quiet portraits of tribal elders are juxtaposed with night scenes at Crow Fair, behind-the-scenes glimpses of the Cody Stampede rodeo, and such activities as ranching and rural life on the Fort Belknap Reservation, where he is an enrolled Assiniboine member of the community. He offers what have elsewhere been described as “textured portraits of life,” studies of people “interwoven with their environment or steeped in their rituals.”

Blackbird captures the vitality of Native life. Unlike romantic figures seen in historic photographs, he makes images of “life as it should be – the people still holding powwows and ceremonies, and knowing that they always will.” The collection also includes oral history interviews with his subjects, reflecting his dedication to the people he photographs.

Blackbird sees his work as a continuum. Instead of telling stories in the oldways – on painted hides or ledger books – he captures history with a camera. When visiting home, or other reservations, he always enjoys meeting people and spending time with them, and recording these moments in images. Blackbird has learned to take good pictures to honor his subjects and knows it is important to follow cultural protocol, even as a tribal member. The process can be a slow one, but the time spent brings opportunities to visit and learn–and often brings the unexpected to the photographs.

Textured Portraits: The Ken Blackbird Collection; Photography from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is organized by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming, with support from the Wyoming Arts Council; WESTAF, the Western States Arts Federation; Wyoming Humanities Council; and the National Endowment for the Arts. The exhibition runs through August. 27, 2017 at Gilcrease Museum, 1400 N. Gilcrease Museum Road.

Title sponsor of the Gilcrease Museum 2017 exhibition season is the Sherman E. Smith Family Charitable Foundation. Generous support is also provided by: Mervin Bovaird Foundation and C.W. Titus Foundation.

About Gilcrease Museum

The Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, commonly known as Gilcrease Museum, located in Tulsa, Okla., is one of the country’s best facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history. The museum houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West, including an unparalleled collection of Native American art and material. The new Helmerich Center for American Research at Gilcrease Museum houses the vast archival collection that Thomas Gilcrease amassed. The archives constitute one of the country’s most extensive collections of rare books, documents, maps and unpublished material related to the history of the North American continent. In addition, the museum offers a continuum of art education programs for all ages in two locations: at the museum, and at the Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education located downtown in the bustling Brady Arts District. The museum is owned by the City of Tulsa, which has partnered with The University of Tulsa to steward the museum.

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