Apsáalooke, Crow Tribe of Montana
Apsáalooke, Crow Tribe of Montana
Born in 1993, Del Curfman grew up in the divides between his Apsáalooke (Crow Tribe of Montana) heritage and the greater Western/Montanan/non-Native culture, forever influencing him and his artwork. A graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), this emerging artist’s work has found significance as a reminder that American Indian culture and traditions have not faded into history or obscurity. His artwork is a conduit for cross-cultural dialogue. Through time, space, and movement, his paintings transgress the boundaries and limits of American Indian stereotypes. Curfman’s work has been featured internationally, at the Field Museum of Chicago and the Neubauer, in local and national publications, and in galleries in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Bristol, U.K. He is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he remains concentrated on creating socially aware, community-engaged artwork.
“Tobacco Testimony” illustrates the commodification of tobacco, a sacred medicine in the Apsáalooke culture. The model’s interaction and physical stance show a contemporary relationship with the industry of Big Tobacco. She is juxtaposed against American Spirits cigarettes, a non-Native tobacco company that uses appropriated images of American Indian cultures and their visual lexicon (chief, headdress, and tobacco pipe). The model stands proud and defiant against the American Spirits logo.” —Del Curfman
What does the idea of “justice for Native communities” mean to you?
The injustices my people face are multidimensional and intersect many aspects of daily life. To me, every generation of Apsáalooke people who have strived for a better life is a form of justice. My vision for justness and equality for Native people is a future where all tribes can achieve their version of success. This could be Native youth having access to quality education, a tribe incubating the next generation of traditional healers, a community’s health holistically advancing, youth finding ways to carry on traditional artforms/regalia-making, and a more robust version of tribal sovereignty are all forms of justice.
What do you think needs to happen in the world to achieve justice for Native communities?
An ideal and comprehensive approach for finding justice would be true tribal liberation. Tribal sovereignty that functions beyond the legal terms which could look like a tribal nation that is immersed in their ancestral knowledges, solves contemporary issues with traditional ways, and would-be communities that are not burdened by intergenerational trauma. Not to say that Native communities have not already achieved these goals, but my vision for justice for Native American communities includes tools for all these issues and challenges that have kept our Native people from achieving success.
How do you express justice through your artwork?
This specific art piece is dedicated to battling the misrepresentation and inequality of Big Tobacco, which has turned our sacred medicine into a cancer and has financially benefited from the large industrial complex, all while using misrepresented and misappropriated American Indian imagery and ancestral knowledge as marketing. The artwork seeks justice by exposing Native American perspectives and truths. Yet throughout ever-present hardship, my people are resilient. In truth, the resiliency of all Native communities serves as my deepest inspiration for artmaking.
Is there anything else you would like to share about Native justice and your artwork?
My artwork “Tobacco Testimony” is part of a series called “Faces of Our Land,” a project dedicated to sharing authentic images of Indigenous people and their unique perspectives, and describing the tremendous work contemporary Native Americans are achieving in Indian Country and beyond. This project is committed to battling stereotypes and creating a dialogue on the Native American diaspora. Through “Faces of Our Land,” I highlight many social justice issues, while providing counter-perspectives that will help move the needle forward against Native American stereotypes, expose injustices, and create a platform for Indigenous people to share their ancestral knowledges and tribal understandings.