Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces

*Indian Toy / Toy Indian*

G. Peter Jemison. Indian Toy / Toy Indian. 1984 375

Gouache, crayon, pencil, and colored pencil on printed brown paper bag. 13 3/4 × 6 7/8 × 4 1/2" (34.9 × 17.5 × 11.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Marnie Pillsbury

Artist, G. Peter Jemison: My name is G. Peter Jemison. I am a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians.

Curator, Thomas (T.) Jean Lax: Jemison was Director of the American Indian Community House Gallery, or AICH, a nearby alternative arts space that showed work by indigenous artists.

G. Peter Jemison: Linda Goode Bryant wanted to show some of my work down on Franklin Street in Tribeca.

It’s work that I had created on paper bags. I’m always open to different ways of making marks and different kinds of tools. I like big fat crayons. I like big fat pencils that have a lot of color and pigment. I’m not limited by what other people think of as “this is fine art and that’s not.”

Linda Goode Bryant: Artists said, “Hey, why can’t we make work that doesn’t require that we have to buy art supplies?” Using what you have to create what you need.

G. Peter Jemison: The thing that I really recall recognizing was how ubiquitous bags were on the subway. Everyone carried some type of a bag, whether it was from shopping, whether it was a lunch bag or maybe a grocery bag, or maybe it was just a handbag or a briefcase. Then I really began, at the same time, to visit different Native American collections and saw a variety of bags, made from leather or woven and they were decorated. And that propelled my idea further.

Indian Toy / Toy Indian was a sort of a manufactured image of what we look like. And then placing it on a paper bag, and the paper bag is a commercial object. It’s a little bit of a tongue in cheek commentary about the way in which everything is commercialized, including us, including our image.

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