Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Art

Major Professor

Riccardo Marchi

Keywords

Canada, Contemporary Art, Native American, Photography

Abstract

My master's thesis explores the photographic series "This Land is Mime Land," which Shelley Niro made in 1992. Despite this work's complex form and structure, there are currently no sustained studies of this series alone, or books solely dedicated to Niro's art. Instead, "Mime Land" is often discussed in compilations that address a number of Native artists, Western feminist practices, or multiple works in Niro's oeuvre. My thesis fills this gap, as I closely investigate how "Mime Land" asks the viewer to look at visual culture, histories and Niro herself. Bell hooks's definition of the "oppositional gaze" - meaning a way of looking that challenges the conventions of visual culture by implementing the media's tools (film and photography) to construct new images of self - provides the framework for my analysis. Specifically, I contend that the subject, form and structure of "Mime Land" critically intervene in mainstream visual culture by asking the viewer to look at Native American women's identities, cultures and histories in new ways; ways that disavow the conventions of dominant visual representations and return the power over one's image to Niro, her family and community. My study demonstrates this thesis through a close consideration of the context contemporary to the work's production; a detailed examination of the photographs in the series; and an analysis of the work's overall structure.

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