At the turn of the 20th century, people took to collecting Native American objects. They were arranged in what were dubbed "Indian corners," what Jessica Hunter Larsen, curator of the IDEA Space at Colorado College, calls a "hodge-podge" of moccasins, dolls and other artifacts from different tribes. Many were collected through dealers, curio shops, connections to tribe members and even robbed burial sites.
"People started living in cities and were not nomadic anymore; they started collecting fine objects," says Portland, Ore., artist Wendy Red Star. "The Industrial era created consumerism."
It's no secret consumerism continues at a healthy clip, but in some ways, Indian corners do too, as evidenced by an exhibition curated by Red Star called Indian Corner, which juxtaposes real Native American objects borrowed from the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center with souvenir or "counterfeit" items.
According to Red Star, who grew up on a Crow reservation, inspiration for the exhibition came from the book Indian Craze that discussed the phenomenon of collecting things for these culture corners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
She also began to explore the differences between the Native American items that can be bought at tourist shops — for this show she shopped the Garden of the Gods Trading Post and secondhand stores in Colorado Springs — and real artifacts that are found in museums, in this case, the FAC.
"You can see how stripped-down the counterfeit pieces are," says Red Star.
Not to mention out of context.
"I found a touch lamp that has Plains and Southwest tribes confused," she says, adding that many of the "counterfeits" are plastic and made in China.
Says Hunter Larsen: "I think it's very poignant, the differences between an object that is embedded with a lived history and an object that is sort of mass-produced and dances on the surface of cultural history."