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Decolonizing the Arts


Dr. Beverly Singer

“Colony” is a powerful little word. In one sense it innocuously refers to a group of people — such as an arts colony. The other reference is far more demeaning: politically controlled and occupied by outsiders. World history has its share of artists and colonialism. And now a new lecture seeks to broaden the conversation on both.

Dr. Beverly Singer and Dr. Tey Marianna Nunn will present a lecture titled, “Decolonizing the Arts: Native American and Latino/a Media,” Thursday (Sept 24), 6 p.m., in the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux St. in Taos. Admission is free.

The talk, co-sponsored by Southern Methodist University-in-Taos and the University of New Mexico-Taos as part of an ongoing Fall Lecture Series, seeks to “help promote nuanced, constructive public conversations about our understanding of the past.”

Singer is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the UNM-Albuquerque. She will discuss filmmaking among Native people.

“I have 35 years in film,” says Singer, who attended film school at the Anthropology Film Center in Santa Fe. She also is the author of “Wiping the War Paint off the Lens” (UNM Press, 2001), the first comprehensive exploration of Native filmmaking and video production.

“I am going to show a 12-minute film about the history of filmmaking in the U.S. and the impact of misrepresentation of Natives,” Singer says. “I will share what Native filmmakers are responding to, how they are using film, and how they have been filmed.”

Her lecture will appeal to anyone interested in filmmaking and the arts. She particularly hopes members from Taos Pueblo will attend, explaining “We need more filmmakers from Taos.”

Her film includes the story of three young Navajo filmmakers whose film was shown at The White House’s 2015 Student Film Festival.

She also looks at jailed Native activist Leonard Peltier, 71. Peltier has been incarcerated in federal prison since 1977 after being convicted of first degree murder in the shooting deaths of two FBI agents. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms. Singer alleges that “Peltier is a political prisoner” and adds that “Prison is the largest reservation there is. Film is very political. Natives have a political voice. As a filmmaker, it’s up to you. You are the editor. It is what you set up through the lens.”

Nunn, of the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, will speak on Hispanic and Latino art. She is the Director of the Center’s Museum and Visual Arts Program.

“My interest is in the history and the representation of Hispanic and Latino art, and the lack of it in museums and critical discussion — not just locally in New Mexico, but nationally too,” says Nunn. She points out that Hispanic and Latino art are often dismissed as “folk art” and not “fine art.”

She notes that there are many great artists in Taos and that art is important to New Mexico. “Art is integral, it’s part of the state’s identity. They all have to be included, not just the famous ones. They are all essential,” Nunn says.

Nunn authored the book: “Sin Nombre: Hispana and Hispano Art of the New Deal Era” (UNM Press, 2001). Her book encapsulates the art history recovery project she embarked upon to identify many Spanish artists who are almost anonymous in New Deal records.

“It took a lot of research, but I’m an advocate to get them identified,” says Nunn.

For her segment of the “Decolonizing the Arts” lecture at the Harwood, she plans to talk about the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, how Taos artists were categorized, the role the Spanish Market plays, and the roles of stereotypes. She notes her slideshow includes “many cool photos.”

“I even talk about the ‘C’ word: Colonization,” Dr. Nunn says.

When asked who may be interested in attending her lecture, Nunn says, “Everyone. All of the different communities in Taos. Come hear some other versions of art history as it pertains to the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Taos Society of Artists.”

For more information, call (575) 758-9826 or visit

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