Events \\ Symposium

American Truths: T.C. Cannon’s Reckoning, Representation and Renewal

Thursday, May 3, 2018, Morse Auditorium

American Truths: T.C. Cannon’s Reckoning, Representation, and Renewal was a day of discussion held in conjunction with the exhibition T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America. The program brought together curators, artists, scholars, poets and the public to share and consider groundbreaking scholarship on the stunning art and life of T.C. Cannon (Caddo/Kiowa, 1946-1978) and his legacy. 

Please note that these presentations may have been edited from their original format.

Dan L. Monroe, The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO, Peabody Essex Museum (PEM)


Biography: Dan L. Monroe, The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO, has held the top leadership position at the Peabody Essex Museum since 1993. On the national and international stage, Monroe has lectured on a wide range of topics related to museums and their future. He was featured speaker at national museum conferences in Japan and Korea. He co-authored Gifts of the Spirit: Works by Nineteenth-Century and Contemporary Native American Artists and has organized or co-curated several exhibitions in the fields of photography, contemporary art, and Native American art.

Karen Kramer, Curator of Native American and Oceanic Art and Culture, PEM


Abstract: As the exhibition curator of T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America, Kramer discusses project impetus and goals, and introduces topics each panel explored in order to establish the foundation from which the day will expand from. Kramer will explore T.C. Cannon’s definitive visual language, key ideas he engaged over his twenty-year career, including dispossession, war, gender and power, and acts of cultural survivance, and his enduring legacy.

Biography: Karen Kramer is the Curator of Native American and Oceanic Art and Culture at the Peabody Essex Museum. She curated the nationally touring exhibition T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America, celebrating Cannon’s stunning art and life. She is co-author and editor of its companion publication. Kramer also curated Native Fashion Now, a recent, nationally traveling, groundbreaking exhibition celebrating contemporary Native American fashion from the 1950s to today, and the paradigm-shifting Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art which dismantled stereotypes and explored concepts of change, worldview, and politics in historical and contemporary Native art. She is co-author and editor of Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art, co-author of Our Land: Contemporary Art from the Arctic and contributor to Uncommon Legacies: Native American Art from the Peabody Essex Museum. Kramer is the Director of PEM’s renowned Native American Fellowship Program, now in it’s 9th year of operation.

Santee Frazier (Cherokee Nation)


Biography: Santee Frazier (Cherokee Nation) is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)  and received his master of fine arts degree from Syracuse University. Frazier's most recent poetry collection is Dark Thirty. He teaches in the low-residency master of fine arts in creative writing program at IAIA and at Syracuse University. The Peabody Essex Museum commissioned Frazier to write new poetry works for the T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America publication.

Each Panelist presents a 15-minute paper.

Rachel Allen (Nez Perce), Curatorial Mellon Fellow, PEM
Paper: From the Margins to the Matrix: T.C. Cannon and the Printmaking Renaissance 


Abstract: This paper examines Waiting for the Bus (Anadarko Princess) (1977), a 7-color lithograph by Cannon made in collaboration with the Tamarind Institute, University of New Mexico’s highly regarded lithography workshop. While attending to its aesthetics and content, the paper also locates his print at the intersection between contemporary Native art and the American printmaking renaissance of the 20th century. The woman depicted is likely dressed for the American Indian Exposition, an annual intertribal gathering in Anadarko, OK. Through Cannon’s color choices, her pose, and accessories, he gives her the status of a Madonna. Alongside other minority artists, Cannon uses what was previously a devalued media to presence and disseminate indigenous ways of being. 

Biography: Rachel Allen is the Curatorial Mellon Fellow at the Peabody Essex Museum. She is also finishing her MA in Museum Studies at Michigan State University, where she previously held positions as assistant professor and as assistant preparator at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. Rachel was a founding member of the Emerging Museum Professionals Chapter of Michigan and is an alumna of the Native American Fellowship program at the Peabody Essex Museum. She received her BFA from The Cleveland Institute of Art in 2010 and her MFA from Michigan State University in 2016, both in printmaking.

Austen Barron Bailly, Curator of American Art, PEM 
Paper: Copley | Cannon | Canon


Abstract: This paper explores the power of an object pairing to collapse strictures and binaries traditionally drawn between Native American and American artists, art, and art histories. Through an experimental pairing of portraits in the Peabody Essex Museum collection painted by T.C. Cannon and John Singleton Copley more than 200 years apart, this paper investigates what makes an artwork canonical and examines both the limits and the possibilities of the American art canon. Comparative analysis of the similarities, differences, and artistic motivations for each painting opens up new ways of looking at American portraiture. These new perspectives ideally will lead us to a more inclusive and productive definition and experience of American art that can transcend time, space, and cultures.

Biography: Austen Barron Bailly is The George Putnam Curator of American Art at the Peabody Essex Museum. Austen joined PEM in 2013, following 11 years as an American art curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). She launched PEM's new American art program as lead curator for American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood, which garnered a 2015 award for excellence from the Association of Art Museum Curators. Austen co-curated American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals (2016) with the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Shoals Marine Laboratory and coordinated for PEM the 2017 blockbuster exhibition Georgia O'Keeffe: Art, Image, Style. Projects in development include Jacob Lawrence: Struggle…from the History of the American People and collaboratively planning the new installations of PEM’s Native American and American art collections. Austen received her B.A. from Vassar College, her M.A. from the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently serving as Chair Emerita of the Association of Historians of American Art.

Janet Dees, Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University.
Paper: Can the Canon Burst?*
*The title of the paper references Christopher B. Steiner’s contribution to the discussion “Rethinking the Canon.” In the June 1996 issue of The Art Bulletin.


Abstract: One way to think about developing new perspectives on the work of Native American artists within the discourse of American art, is to consider how taking works by Native artists as the starting point may reshape the canon, rather than thinking of the existing canon as an unassailable frame into which these works are inserted. I will briefly discuss the 2017 exhibition If You Remember, I’ll Remember, which featured the work of Marie Watt (Seneca) and Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee) along with several non-Native American artists, as a case study of this approach, to then discuss how this perspective may engage the work of T.C. Cannon, using his 1975 painting Self-Portrait in the Studio, as a starting point.

Biography: Janet Dees is the Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. Prior to her appointment at the Block in September 2015, she was curator at SITE Santa Fe, where she had held various curatorial positions since 2008.  Dees was apart of the curatorial team for the inaugural SITElines: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas biennial exhibition entitled Unsettled Landscapes, and has curated exhibitions and produced new commissions with a wide variety of contemporary artists, including Kristine Aono, Jamison Chas Banks, Amy Cutler, Leonardo Drew, Sarah Oppenheimer, Mary Reid Kelley, Dario Robleto, Rose B. Simpson and Marie Watt among others. Recent exhibition projects include Hank Willis Thomas: Unbranded (2018); Experiments in Form: Sam Gilliam, Frank Stella, Alan Shields (2018); Carrie Mae Weems: Ritual and Revolution (2017); If You Remember, I’ll Remember (2017); Kader Attia: Reflecting Memory (2017); at the Block and Unsuspected Possibilities: Leonardo Drew, Sarah Oppenheimer, Marie Watt ( 2015) at SITE Santa Fe. Her writing has been featured in publications for SITE Santa Fe, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and Radius Books, among others. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in art history at the University of Delaware. She earned a B.A. from Fordham University in Art History & African-American Studies, and an M.A. in Art History from the University of Delaware. 

Adriana Zavala, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Art and Art History, Tufts University
Paper: Absent from the Annals of American Art


Abstract: Native art, Chicana/x/o and Latina/o/x art, African American art, Asian American art. The mainstream art world--including museums, the academy, and the market--has found it convenient to dismiss as “special interest” the work of artists like T.C. Cannon who, in addition to committing themselves to bringing visibility to their cultural communities’ past and present, were equally committed to formal and conceptual artistic experimentation. This presentation will explore parallel examples from the Chicano art movement.  Like Cannon, Rupert García, Ester Hernandez, Yolanda Lopez, César Martínez, Malachias Montoya, and Salvador Torres affirmed their contemporaneity while at the same time interrogating their communities’ ongoing disenfranchisement, marginalization and even outright erasure. Yet just as the Chicano history is marginalized within mainstream narratives of American history, so too their art within the annals of “American” art.

Biography: Adriana Zavala holds a PhD in art history from Brown University. She is Associate Professor of Art History and director of Latino Studies program at Tufts University, where she also directs the Consortium of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, the home of five interdisciplinary programs including Africana, American, Asian American, Latino and Colonialism Studies. She is founding director of the U.S. Latinx Art Forum ( a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing scholarship, writing, and historical inquiry about U.S. Latinx art and visual culture. She has curated exhibitions on Frida Kahlo, María Izquierdo and Lola Álvarez Bravo. Her current book explores how Black and Brown Latinx visual artists engage with the legacies of racialization under franchise and settler colonialism across the Americas.

Each panelist chooses a poem from the exhibition to discuss, after which the Moderator asks questions of the presenters.


Melanie Benson Taylor, PhD, Associate Professor of Native American Studies, Dartmouth College; contributor to T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America

Biography: Melanie Benson Taylor is associate professor of Native American studies at Dartmouth College. She is the author of Disturbing Calculations: The Economics of Identity in Postcolonial Southern Literature, 1912–2002 (2008) and Reconstructing the Native South: American Indian Literature and the Lost Cause (2012). She recently edited the Cambridge History of Native American Literature (forthcoming) and is currently completing a monograph entitled Doom and Deliverance: The Indigenous Ends of Southern Fiction.

William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. (Assiniboine), playwright and poet; Libra Professor, English Department, University of Maine

Biography: William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. is an Assiniboine playwright. He is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Three new poems are to be published in the new edition of Dawnland Voices and a new collection of his plays entitled; “Restless Spirits; Plays by William S. Yellow Robe Jr.,” edited by Jace Weaver is scheduled to be released this year. His play, “Makin Indixns”, was one of five newly completed one-act plays and was published in the “America’s Best One-Act Plays.”  Other publications of his work include “Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers and Other Untold Stories,” a collection of his full-length plays, “Where the Pavement Ends: New Native Drama” a collection of his one-act plays. He is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre and Penumbra Theatre.  Yellow Robe resides in Maine where he is a Libra Professor at the English Department, University of Maine.

Santee Frazier (Cherokee Nation), Faculty Member, Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing low-residency program, Institute of American Indian Arts; Adjunct Faculty, Syracuse University; contributor to T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America

Biography: Santee Frazier (Cherokee Nation) is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and received his master of fine arts degree from Syracuse University. Frazier's most recent poetry collection is Dark Thirty. He teaches in the low-residency master of fine arts in creative writing program at IAIA and at Syracuse University. The Peabody Essex Museum commissioned Frazier to write new poetry works for the T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America publication.

Matt Hooley, PhD, Assistant Professor of Literature and the Environment, Department of English, Clemson University

Biography: Matt Hooley writes and teaches at the intersection of Indigenous, Colonialism, and Environmental Studies. Recent essays he has published have situated the decolonial poetics of writers including d.g. nanouk okpik and Sherwin Bitsui (Diné) as generatively antagonistic to the protocols of settler environmentalism. He’s currently working on two book projects: one that theorizes a decolonial Native modernism through the Indigenous literary history of Minneapolis and another that’s a comparative study of the coloniality of drought in Palestine and Dinétah.

Dorothy Wang, PhD, Associate Professor of American Studies and Faculty Affiliate in English, Williams College

Biography: Dorothy Wang is a Professor in the American Studies Program at Williams College. Her monograph Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry (Stanford University Press, 2013) was chosen as one of The New Yorker's "The Books We Loved in 2016." The first national conference on race and creative writing was named after the book and held in 2014, 2015, and 2017. Wang's work focuses on the issue of race and twentieth-and twenty-first-century English-language poetry and poetics, particularly experimental minority poetry. She also conceived of and co-founded the "Race and Poetry and Poetics in the UK" working group, based in the UK.

Moderated by Matthew Grinder, Adjunct Faculty, Central Maine Community College; PhD candidate, Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, OH

Biography: Matthew Grinder is currently a PhD student of Interdisciplinary Humanities focusing on Literature and Culture at Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, OH. His research interests include Native American Oral story-telling and theory as well as how stories build foundations of personhood and individuality in American culture. He has presented and published nationally on these topics, and most recently in his paper titled, “Towards A More Sacred Union:  A Consideration of the Ceremonial Pipe.” He is also Adjunct Faculty at Central Maine Community College.

Each Panelist discusses a Cannon work from the exhibition and one of their own artworks for 5 minutes, and talks about the inspiration each takes from Cannon’s work. After which, the Moderator asks questions to the presenters. 


America Meredith (Cherokee Nation), Visual Artist, Independent Curator, Editor of First American Art Magazine, and contributor to T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America.

Biography: America Meredith is the publishing editor of First American Art Magazine and is an author, artist, and independent curator whose curatorial practice spans over two decades. She earned her MFA degree from San Francisco Art Institute and has taught art history at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe Community College, and the Cherokee Humanities Course. Meredith serves on the board of the Wheelwright Museum and the Cherokee Arts and Humanities Council.

Hoka Skenandore (Oneida/Oglala Lakota/Luiseño/Chicano), Visual Artist and Master of Fine Arts Candidate, University of Oklahoma

Biography: Hoka Skenandore works as a painter, printmaker, muralist, and graffiti artist. His work juxtaposes imagery and text to explore the unsettling of the west, indigenous survivance, and stereotyping with wit and humor. After a year in Americorps he attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and earned a BFA in 2006. He has shown throughout the United States and Canada, including at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, the The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Exhibit C Gallery in Oklahoma City, and Racing Magpie in Rapid City, South Dakota. Hoka is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Oklahoma.

Jason Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo Tewa), Visual Artist

Biography: In Jason Garcia’s work—most often clay tiles that are created in the traditional Pueblo way with hand-gathered clay, native clay slips and outdoor firings — he transforms materials closely connected to the earth into a visually rich mix of Pueblo history and culture, comic book superheroes, video game characters, religious icons and all things pop culture. Garcia has received numerous awards including a Ronald N. and Susan Dubin Fellowship at the School for Advanced Research, and both the Best of Classification and Artist’s Choice awards at the Santa Fe Indian Market. His work is also in the collections of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. He received his BFA from the University of New Mexico and MFA in printmaking at the University of Wisconsin.

Ken Williams Jr. (Northern Arapaho/Seneca), Visual Artist, Collector, Manager, Case Trading Post, Wheelwright Museum

Biography: Ken Williams Jr. began his career at an early age, experimenting as a self taught artist who learned by observing family and friends. He completed his BA in museum studies at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe (2007) and while there took beadwork classes from noted beadwork artist Teri Greeves. Since 2003 he has been participating in the Southwest Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) Annual Indian Market, Santa Fe and since 2006 at the Heard Museum Annual Indian Market and Festival, Phoenix. William’s work has been widely exhibited and garnered many awards. It is in many prominent collections including the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Arts, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Heard Museum, Museum of Indian arts and Culture (MIAC), Montclair Art Museum, Utah Museum of Natural History, Utah Arts Council, National Museum Scotland, as well as many private collections nationwide.

Moderated by Karen Kramer

Philip J. Deloria (Dakota), PhD, Professor of History, Harvard University


Biography: Philip J. Deloria (Dakota) is a Professor of History at Harvard University, and formerly the Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Professor of American Culture and History, with a joint appointment in the departments of History and American Culture at the University of Michigan. He is also the former Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. He has served as president of the American Studies Association, a council member of the Organization of American Historians, and a Trustee of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. He is the author of two prize-winning books, Playing Indian and Indians in Unexpected Places, and coeditor of The Blackwell Companion of American Indian History and C.G. Jung and the Sioux Traditions:  Dreams, Visions, Nature, and the Primitive by Vine Deloria Jr. He has also written numerous articles, essays, and reviews in the fields of American Indian studies, environmental history, and cultural studies.