Pauppukkewis – The Grasshopper
Zoller Gallery, Pennsylvania State University, 2016
Introduction written below by Kristina Davis, MFA
Jeremy Dennis did not attend his opening reception, and why should he? Although his work draws on sensitive issues of colonialism and the erasure of Native American History, it is not his job to walk us through white America’s myopia. In the exhibition The Moral of Hubris or a Story of What Not to Do in ‘Pauppukkeewis’, Jeremy turns the appropriation of his culture back onto its oppressors. A deviation from his previous work of highly rendered and staged photography, The Moral of Hubris or a Story of What Not to Do in ‘Pauppukkeewis’, is a low- fi collection of Native American pop iconography. The American sentiment towards native culture is clearly displayed in these figures which have been thoughtlessly misappropriated and characterized by popular culture. The gallery space is staggered with contemporary and vintage imagery cheaply reproduced, and blown up to idol proportions. When walking through the exhibition the viewer has the task of navigating a white-walled space filled with larger than life pixelated and Xeroxed cut-outs of Native American figures, that in some cases were actually costumed, white men. The most compelling and confronting of the cutouts was of Will Sampson and Jack Nicholson from the film adaption of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This cutout took on the complex criticism of white colonialism I was looking for in the rest of the work. The politically and emotionally charged novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was written by Ken Kesey from the perspective the half-white half-native character Chief Bromden. However, when adapted to Hollywood film the story was told from the viewpoint of Jack Nicholson’s nefarious white male character, stripping Chief Bromden of his voice and liberation from the mental institution at the end of the novel. Jeremey’s choice imagery of Randal Patrick “Mac” McMurphy and Chief Bromden draws out the connection between the viewer and the complex social issues at hand. The Moral of Hubris or a Story of What Not to Do in ‘Pauppukkeewis’, is a scathing criticism of the western white man’s opportunistic ability to alter and manipulate content for its entertainment value. The show compels me to consider what I steal in artistic references and those who have rights to its origins.
Special thanks to Aaron Ziolkowski, Penn State – Department of Art History, Ph.D