For many Native Americans, poorly written history is nothing new. An example of casual racism in the Kansas state song was one of Ulrich Museum of Art curator Ksenya Gurshtein’s inspirations when curating this year’s fall exhibition, “Myths of the West”. Gurshtein spoke about the process of building this collection during Tuesday’s Curator Talk.
Gurshtein discovered that there were hidden lyrics in the state song “Home on the Range” that held prejudice against Native Americans.
“We were new here and one day I wanted to play the state song for my kids,” Gurshtein said. “As I listened…one of the verses was ‘The red man’s been pressed from this part of the west, there’s probably no going back to the banks of the red river’ and that blew me away. made me think, ‘this is my status song and there was this kind of casual racism and erasure from history.
During her talk, Gurshtein talked about an artwork by Sydney Pursel that addresses the issue of cultural appropriation.
“Sydney’s work is really great,” Gurshtein said. “I think it speaks to cultural appropriation and how images of Native American names are taken all the time.”
Part of Gurshtein’s inspiration for “Myths of the West” came from the Wichita Art Museum.
“These works made me think about ‘how do we show history as it is given to us? How to say it differently? … How do we connect with the group of individuals in this story? “said Gurshtein. “Blackbear Bosin seemed like such a remarkable figure, it was certainly an eye opener for me because he was an outsider…he lived here (Wichita, Kansas) or did some really wonderful work here.”
With this exhibit, Gurshtein wanted to showcase different works from across the city of Wichita and create a complex and enduring resource for students and faculty.