HWS Welcomes Acclaimed Diné Photographer – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

HWS Welcomes Acclaimed Diné Photographer

This fall, HWS will welcome renowned Diné photographer Will Wilson to campus for an exhibition of his work, lecture and workshop. Wilson’s work addresses issues of genocide, sovereignty, resistance, identity and the continued colonization of Native Americans. An opening reception will be held at the Davis Gallery at Houghton House on Friday, Oct. 4, from 6 to 8 p.m., during which Wilson will give a gallery talk on his work. The following day, he will present a workshop on the wet-plate/tintype technique.

“Will was my student at Oberlin. He was always a most creative student, full of ideas, both personal and political. His new work explores a form of ‘otherness’ that is both strange and beautiful,” says Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Stan Mathews, who along with Professor of Art and Architecture Patricia Mathews invited Wilson to campus.

Wilson spent his formative years living in the Navajo Nation. Born in San Francisco in 1969, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College and went on to earn his M.F.A. from the University of New Mexico. In 2007, Wilson won a Native American Fine Art Fellowship from the Eiteljorg Museum and in 2010 was awarded a prestigious grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation.

According to the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, “Wilson is primarily known for his personal and political photographic installations firmly positioned within the hierarchical and conflicted ‘art world.'”

Wilson has exhibited in institutions such as the Heard Museum, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and the Eiteljorg Museum, and his work has been featured in such publications as Smithsonian Magazine. His large-scale public murals, created in collaboration with indigenous children and children of color, have been created in communities as diverse as Barrio Anita in Tucson and the Southside of Indianapolis. Two years ago, he was a guest at the Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., which is where the Mathews reconnected with him.

As part of his current project, “Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange,” Wilson creates tintype portraits, 8×10-inch black-and-white photographs made on thin aluminum sheets that were used predominantly by many of the photographers documenting the West. The project is in response to the way Native Americans have been immortalized by such early photographers, especially the early 20th century photographer Edward S. Curtis. Wilson seeks to capture portraits from today’s American Indian communities to counter these early representations of Native American cultures.

“My work is a response to the ways in which photography has been used as a mechanism of colonization,” Wilson wrote for a portfolio page that appeared on the University of Arizona website.

Additionally, for the Native Arts Collective he wrote “For Indians, I want to produce experiences that bring us close to home, while unsettling us with the evidences of colonization. I want my work to strengthen Indians with examples of resistance, and the possibilities of controlling one’s own representation. For non-Indians I want to call into question the uncritical consumption of images of American Indians both positive and negative.”

During his workshop which takes place at the Colleges on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 10 a.m. in the Carriage House, Wilson will take and develop wet collodion plate photographic portraits, interacting with invited members of our community. Please contact Stan Mathews at mathews@hws.edu or 315-781-3476 if you are interested in attending this workshop.

Wilson’s visit has been made possible with the support of the Office of the President, the Anthropology Department, Department of Art and Architecture and the Davis Gallery at Houghton House.