An artist's book of augmented portraiture, documenting the symbolism and material culture of the Bíilukaa (Apsáalooke)
Wendy Red Star (born 1981) made her first big move off the Crow reservation to attend Montana State University in Bozeman. During one of her study sessions she discovered an image of Medicine Crow, an Apsáalooke chief, in a random book in the university library. Enamored by his image, she made a xerox copy and kept the chief’s image in her sketchbook. A decade later, in 2014, she revisited this image to create an exhibition at the Portland Art Museum titled Medicine Crow & the 1880 Crow Peace Delegation.
Bíilukaa builds upon this theme of researching historical photographs of Apsáalooke individuals and material culture, with the artist drawing on both her personal collection and works held in museums and archives across the country. Red Star notes, “Since the time I left the Crow reservation I have encountered my tribe’s material cultural in every city I have exhibited or occupied. It is incredible that so much of my community’s history and material culture is kept in the vaults of these institutions hundreds of miles away from their source.” The text features interviews with the artist and members of her extended family, alongside new works of primarily collaged photography.
Red Star has chosen the title Bíilukaa in reference to what the Apsáalooke call themselves: Our Side. Bíilukaa is the book Red Star wishes she could have read when setting out as a young artist, a book that educates the public about collections and archives, while also honoring her family and community.