Arts

Dana Claxton's 'Lasso' layers Lakota aesthetics, hip hop culture and the Wild West

The Hunkpapa Lakota artist's subversive and playful work confronts stereotypes of Indigenous people in popular culture

Dana Claxton, Lasso, 2018, LED firebox with transmounted lightjet duratrans. (Courtesy of Dana Claxton/Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery/Audain BC Art Acquisition Fund)

Dana Claxton, Lasso, 2018, LED firebox with transmounted lightjet duratrans (Courtesy of Dana Claxton/Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery/Audain BC Art Acquisition Fund)

Dana Claxton is very pleased with Lasso. As the Hunkpapa Lakota filmmaker and artist describes the pleasure of bringing her artistic vision to life, she points out the hat perched on the head of her subject, the Blackfoot filmmaker Cowboy Smithx. “I had to get special insurance to rent it because it was an authentic western hat, probably about 130 years old.” Lasso is part of an upcoming Core Exhibition of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival at the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, which features Claxton’s subversive and playful work confronting stereotypes of Indigenous people in popular culture. In Lasso, she wanted to “collapse images that might consider what an Indigenous male is, in the past, in the imaginary, in the present and in the future.” The image layers Lakota aesthetics, hip hop culture and the Wild West: a low-rider bike, adorned with a painted buffalo skull and embellished parfleche basket, stands next to Smithx, who wears a velour tracksuit, traditional beadwork and “that lovely hat.” Claxton instructed him to “lasso the universe.” Infinity is a recurring theme in her work, she says. “I think it has something to do with the enormous sky I grew up under in Saskatchewan, which went on and on, as far as you could ever see.”