Jacob Meders Showcases Printmaking and Cultural Influence in resurfaced

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Photo courtesy of Berlin Gallery
Jacob Meders (Mechoopda), " Orange Bird," serigraph print on paper
For those who think the Heard Museum is just about beading and dreamcatchers, artist Jacob Meders is hoping to give visitors a better insight on contemporary native art.

He and artist Alex Peña open their show resurfaced tonight at the Berlin Gallery at the Heard Museum. The event will feature live music, a wine tasting, and a talk by Meders.

Meders, who is currently earning his MFA in printmaking at ASU, gives us a little insight on his process ...
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Photo courtesy of Berlin Gallery
Jacob Meders in the studio
Your work seems to vary a lot in different styles. If you look at them side-by-side, they don't even appear to be from the same artist.

Meders: Yeah, I've gotten that a lot. I'm really into alternative and old processes and in printmaking, lithography and relief printmaking are very old. I see a connection to old craft and old ways. If it's 200 or 1,000 years old, I see that as a connection to being native -- to keep knowledge of our culture. It's important to hold on to the old stuff because you learn discipline and you learn craftsmanship.  

Why do you think we don't see these old techniques very often if they are so valuable as building blocks?

There are artists that use it, but I don't know. Everything is moving so fast now and digital and instant gratification. I guess it's not about how many people do it, but that there are doing it. Those people are putting a lot of effort into it and trying to do it justice.

How did birds become the central figure in a lot of your work?

I've always been attracted to them and I would draw them as a kid. There was an NPR story on finches a while back after I'd been using them in my work, and they were talking about how they all have their tweets, but the distinct style of each finch is from their parents, who learned it from their parents, so it's passed down the lineage. If I think about that culturally, in lineage and family, I see the connection in my work. 

What are the chances anyone will get that connection from looking at your work?

I don't think anyone will really get that from looking at my work, but at least it opens up a dialogue. If it can bring people in by the aesthetics, then it can start a conversation about it. 
It's not always going to be immediate. 

How do historic events influence your work?

They comment on the time in history when photogravures were made. Edward Curtis was going and documenting the natives in North America because at the time they thought Native Americans were going to be extinct. But the native people were being documented from the outside and in a posed and dramatic way and they weren't capturing their own culture. Many people still see native people in their minds as they were captured in those images.
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Photo courtesy of Berlin Gallery
Alex Pena (Comanche), "Uncertain Landscape #1," 29'' h x 41'' w, mixed media drawing
The collotypes you've created with historic drawings combined with a stereotypical Native American figurine are quite different from the bird prints. How did you get there?

I use this idea that is basically Hollywood's imagery of the western plains indian riding on horseback and shooting cowboys and maybe that's a part of some history, but not all native history. A lot of people don't understand that even today. So I took these old prints that were documenting historic events and I cropped them down and scaled them to the size of the plastic figuine and I used the names of native people who went to Europe to show we don't explain native history or history from the native perspective. These are things that only native history majors or natives know and no one else knows anything about it. I think, for me, it's about appropriation of imagery in both cases -- for the people in the images and for the natives. 

It's as if you are trying to rewrite history in your own way by re-documenting events through the old-fashioned methods you use.

Yes, the collotype is the old process that deals with documentation and the old way of thinking, so then I think it works. And the handset titles help to add that feeling, too. 

Why do you think you and Alex Peña were paired together for this show?

We're two emerging printmakers. Alex is Comanche and his work is very abstract and it's beautiful. I think we've taken these aesthetics of beauty and interesting color in two different directions. I think it shows the diversity of two young native artists to demonstrate what is out there and what we have to offer.

What do you think will surprise people about this show?

There are still a lot of stereotypes about what native art is and if you're not making a dream catcher, then they think it's not native art. Some people get so confused when they see more modern native art that isn't that same style. People are always making something different for a reason. There weren't always beads, they didn't come until the Europeans came, and yet people still think of that as "traditional" native art. I'd like to see more people be open to contemporary native art and to acknowledge that it's there.

The Berlin Gallery is located inside the Heard Museum, at 2301 N Central Avenue. For more information, check out the Berlin Gallery website


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5 comments
Juliannemichelle
Juliannemichelle

Jacob, It's Julianne. I love your work.  I am looking for a blue/brown work with a bird. Do you have your work for sale on a site? Hope you are well.

Jmeders
Jmeders

Hey Julianne,The only site available to purchase my work is at berlingallery.org  I'm always putting new work up at the gallery so just keep an eye on it. There are a few pieces on the site that could work for you. Thank very much for your interest. Hit me up on facebook if you'd like to be kept up to date on anything new I might be working on.-Jake

Readheadmex
Readheadmex

This is fascinating material....it's true that many many people have only the stereotypical Hollywood image of native Art and craft work in mind. Somebody gave me a piece of contemporary silver and turquoise jewelry and because it was unusual people wouldn't believe it was really native work.  Great that young native Americans are expanding the public perspective.

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