Hot on the heels of the opening of Jimmie Durham’s touring retrospective at the Walker Art Center, 10 Cherokee artists, curators, and other professionals have published a forceful editorial disputing the artist’s Native American heritage.
Titled “Dear Unsuspecting Public, Jimmie Durham Is a Trickster” and published by Indian Country Today, based in Verona, New York, the editorial is blunt: No matter what metric is used to determine Indigenous status, Durham does not fulfill any of them.
The signers of the editorial include America Meredith, an artist and publishing editor of First American Art Magazine; Cara Cowan Watts, a former member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council; Luzene Hill, artist and former deputy speaker of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council; and Kade Twist, an artist and co-founder of the group Postcommodity, featured in the recent Whitney Biennial and current documenta 14.
First American Art Magazine has also published a detailed fact sheet about Durham.
“I am perfectly willing to be called Cherokee,” said Durham in a recent article in the New York Times, though he went on to muddy the waters by adding, “But I’m not a Cherokee artist or Indian artist, no more than Brancusi was a Romanian artist.”
The signers of the editorial say that Durham’s claims are not only untrue, but actually damaging to other Cherokee artists: “These false claims are harmful,” they write, “as they misrepresent Native people, undermine tribal sovereignty, and trivialize the important work by legitimate Native artists and cultural leaders.”