By BELLA LAWRENCE
Although not often thought of by students at Colorado College as a place for challenging stereotypes and reimagining a romanticized Western past, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (CSPM) has launched a new historic exhibit which does just that. Entitled “[Dis]Information: American Indians Through the Lens of Roland Reed,” the exhibit endeavors, as stated on the CSPM website, to “encourage visitors to examine the role ‘retrospective photography’ plays in shaping our understanding of American Indians.”
The exhibit contains several 20th century photographs by Roland Reed, whose work can be classified as “pictorialist.” Pictorialists were photographers of Native American peoples, who focused on recreating images perceived to represent the past, rather than capturing current reality. In this way, many pictorialists, including Reed, not only considered themselves photographers, but ethnographers as well. Reed’s pictures are “strikingly beautiful but deeply problematic,” according to the CSPM website.
In order to challenge the lasting effects and impressions of “reality” pertaining to this type of work, the Pioneers Museum has partnered with artist Gregg Deal of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe, whose art challenges stereotypes and misconceptions of Indigenous Peoples. Deal currently resides in Colorado Springs, and has had several solo and group exhibitions across the state throughout the past three years. Some exhibitions to note are “Existence As Protest” at Dawsons, Colorado Springs in 2018, “Not Your Indian” at Denver University in 2017, and “White Indian” at the Denver Art Museum in 2016.
The CSPM exhibit will contain several original works by Deal, as well as contemporary American Indian photographs, “alongside historic images that celebrate the power and beauty of photography,” the website, the combination of which seeks to challenge viewers’ predisposed assumptions. Engaging with public history is a great way to get to know the Colorado Springs community, to explore outside of the CC bubble, and to challenge one’s own relationship to a sense of place in the Pikes Peak region. “[Dis]Information” will be running through March 28, 2020. The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free for all visitors.