YGSNA Members Partner with Australasian Arts Conference

February 22, 2016

On February 11th and 12th, YGSNA members partnered with the Yale History of Art Department to welcome Australian Studies art historian Stephen Gilchrist to campus as part of the “Entangling Antipodes: Negotiating Art and Empire in Australasia” symposium.

Gilchrist is of the Yamatji people of the Inggarda language group of Western Australia and is an associate lecturer of Indigenous Art at the University of Sydney. He has curated numerous exhibitions across the Anglophone world, including the recently opened Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia at the Harvard Art Museum.

Gilchrist presented a keynote talk on “Indigenous Art and the Memory of Place” in the History of Art Department which was attended by dozens of symposium participants, Native American Cultural Center and YGSNA members, as well as students in YGSNA member Anya Montiel’s Native America Art seminar. Beforehand, Gilchrist met with YGSNA and NACC members at the Native American Cultural Center for a reception and Center tour.

Montiel presented at the Friday conference, using comparative assessments of the material forms of power and prestige conveyed to Native American and Australian Aboriginal leaders. Entitled “Presentations of Colonial Power: the Narrowing of Indigeneity Between Aboriginal King Plates and North American Gorgets,” Montiel’s presentation drew upon her extensive research into Native American arts collection as well as recent travels and research into Australian arts collection. In fact, Montiel first met Gilchrist in May 2015 during a Yale History of Art research trip organized by professors Ned Cooke and Tim Barringer that met curators, archivists, artists, and fellow scholars in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, and Tasmania.

Montiel’s paper addressed the colonial practice of presenting metal gorgets to indigenous leaders in North America and Australia. Conferring metals gorgets to indigenous people originated in North America as a strategy by the English, French, and Spanish to mark allegiances with indigenous nations in the 18th century. Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales, then continued the practice and issued brass gorgets to indigenous men and women in Australia beginning in 1815. Compared and analyzed together, gorgets are significant artifacts of negotiation and encounter. Montiel concluded her paper by discussing artworks created by contemporary Native American and Australian Aboriginal artists who utilize gorgets in their art to reinterpret and reclaim early indigenous histories that often were not written.