I've still been struggling to create anything other than parts and pieces in the studio. Appropriation and ethics have been on my mind a lot lately. I think it's a question all artists run into regularly. Where is the line between influence, inspiration, and a ripoff? I see other artists selling work I would consider unethical denigrations of the original symbols. But the offense is more than just to the stolen image. These kinds of "art" cheapen the idea of creative expression. They not only piss on the original symbol, but denigrate art itself by turning it into cheap consumer products bearing only the superficial "aesthetic" with no deeper symbolic meaning than the money it's exchanged for. Art is a symbol, not a product and any attempt to call it otherwise only cheapens thoughtful exploration into nothing other than mindless drivel to sell to a shallow public.
Earlier this week I cut a couple of stencils to try to think through some of these ideas with a painting. I made a stencil of the crying Indian from the recycle commercials and an ear of corn with double helix kernels. I mixed together a red face Indian, a white face Indian, a stained glass window that doubles as a dream catcher, the DNA corn, the logo for General Motors, and the words "pop kills culture" covered by the word "misappropriation." There's a lot going on in this painting but I think it covers the idea of manipulation and the act of stealing across several different cultural arenas.
I love the DNA corn. Corn is the perfect symbol of what white people have done to Native culture in this country. We are taught in school the corn was given to white people by the Indians. And look what we've done with it. Hybridized it, industrialized it, commercialized it and genetically modified it; taken every ounce of original nutrition out of it and marketed it under the mask of the real thing. Such a fittingly good metaphor.