Daily Art Moment: Zig Jackson

Indian Man on the Bus, from the series Indian Man in San Francisco, 16 x 20 inches, gelatin silver print. A horizontal, rectangular, black and white photo of the crowded interior of a bus featuring a man wearing a Native American feather headdress. The view is of the last few rows of the back of the bus showing a group of seated male presenting individuals. At right, a man is seen wearing a large Native American feather headdress composed of dark tipped, white feathers that radiate from a beaded band across the top of the man’s forehead. He wears a neutral expression, dark sunglasses, a jacket, cuffed jeans and high-top sneakers. He is sitting on one of the inward facing bus benches and so faces towards the left. The other figures around him sit in rows: three behind the man in the headdress, across the back wall of the bus, four seated in rows in front of the man and several partially visible figures to the left of the photo. The men, all of whom look past the man in the headdress or out the window, appear to be of varying backgrounds such as White, Hispanic or Asian. A city street scene is visible through large bus windows at right.

“While working on his MFA in photography at the San Francisco Art Institute during the 1990s, Zig Jackson turned the camera on himself. He wryly explored the ways that he, a Native American, moved through a large American West Coast city that was once the land of Indigenous peoples including the Ohlone, Chochenyo, Karkin, Ramaytush, Yokuts, and Muwekma. While wearing ‘everyday’ clothing including jeans, athletic shoes, and sunglasses, Jackson also donned a feathered headdress symbolic of his Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara heritage and tribal identity. He then went about daily activities throughout San Francisco—riding the bus, visiting the famous Painted Ladies homes along Alamo Square, and walking along Ocean Beach.

Jackson’s pointed imagery pushes us to acknowledge the stereotypes that continue to harm Indigenous peoples while counteracting the widespread belief that Native Americans today live on isolated reservations, far from city centers, and are few in number. In fact, at least 19,000 Native Americans live in San Francisco. Portland is home to 60,000 Native Americans descended from over 380 tribes. More than 110,000 Native Americans live in New York City today.

A number of Jackson’s photographs will be included in the Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Ansel Adams in Our Time, which opens on January 30, 2021. Contemporary landscape photographs like Jackson’s will extend Adams’s photographic legacy beyond his own time and into the present day. These contemporary works prompt questions about the lands we live on, how we use natural resources, and how we treat those whose histories on these lands reach back thousands of years.”

Julia Dolan, The Minor White Curator of Photography

Zig Jackson (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, and American, born 1957). Indian Man on the Bus, from the series “Indian Man in San Francisco,” 1994. Gelatin silver print. Museum Purchase, 2016.81.2 © #ZigJackson

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