Monday, January 7, 2013
Welcome to my new blog. Let me introduce myself and the intentions behind this blog. My name is Michael Galban and I am a middle aged man of mixed race. My father is Washoe/Paiute and my mother Italian/Sicilian. Quite a mixture right? I was born in Ontario, California and raised both in New York State and Nevada. I was brought up with a strong understanding of my Native identity, coincidently much of that came from my Mother, who for a time in the 70's, even ran a Title 9 Indian Education program.
Note: Indians always seem to start at the beginning it seems so bear with me on my whole "journey of life" part of the text. It'll get better in the coming weeks I promise.
So, my point is, that I traveled quite a lot as a kid. I attended many schools some good, some bad. Most of them found me as one of the only Native kids in the student body. That was sometimes a blessing, most times not. I got into plenty of fights as a result and found my escape in books. Fortunately, my folks had a pretty decent library for poor people. My mother made sure our house had scads of books on Native American themes and I flipped through them all. Who was I? This is an honest question that I had! I am a child of the television era - I watched all the cartoons and films of my day. I was nothing like those hollywood Indians. I couldn't ride a horse and my thick glasses would make wearing a headband bothersome. (believe me, I tried.) I found real inspiration in Fritz Scholder's work. We owned a book of his lithographs and I fell in love with the themes and style. He was even a California Indian!
Note: Why is it poor people have some of the best filled bookshelves?
I guess I was trying to find out what I meant when I told people that I was "Indian". So, after all that, I went to college for art and anthropology. It was a real eye opener. Again, I found myself one of the only Native students on campus. A roll I had perfected mind you. I started an Indian Student organization on campus so that I could participate in the consortium of college Student organizations here in NYS. Also, they would let me drive the college van to gatherings if I was an official group. At the inaugural meeting of the group, I presided over four new members, myself, a blonde hippy girl who simply "liked Indians", an outspoken red head who told us "she was a Native American because she was born in America" and a kid from India who misunderstood the flyer. Success.
I spent my time at college learning how to drink massive quantities of alcohol, get into serious trouble with the law, chase girls and struggling to find my own identity as the "Indian artist" I desperately wanted to become. I had a good senior show that I worked hard at filling. I figured the easiest way to make the show look good would be to fill the walls. I did these massive canvases for the show. And when I look back at them as they lean against the basement walls in my house I shudder. Boy, are they bad. BUT...back then, I had great support from the college community and I thought they were pretty cool. But what did I know? Everyone told me they were great - and I was too myopic to see the truth!
After school I had a couple of good showings - one time, I even showed with some very big name "Indian Artists" who, had they attended the show would probably have taken war clubs to my canvases. I fell into a long period of inactivity. I guess subconsciously, I may have realized that my work was going nowhere. Looking back, I felt like I was faking it. The work I was producing felt awkward and disingenuine but I couldn't have known that at the time. it took me a long time to really put my finger on what happened.
Note: Before anyone asks - I will not post images of my bad Indian art here. For those who attended those shows I am truly sorry. But I cannot in good conscience subject more happy minds to the torture of feigning delight for my benefit. I also, do not seek that type of attention anymore so you can forget it.
In hindsight, it was a real blessing that I hung up my brushes. I would never have found my true passion. History. Yeah. History. Where did THAT come from? Well, halfway through my college years, I took a summer job at the request of a family friend. This new place was a historic site, where once sat a large Seneca town. I was happy to have a summer job that wasn't life threatening ( at some other time, I'll share my checkered work past) and I could hang out with Natives. Plus and plus. It was at Ganondagan that I found my love of the past. More importantly, it is my love of the work of our ancestors that really resurfaced. The memories of sitting at the bookshelves as a kid and flopping open the huge Norm Feder book on "Native American Art" and staring at the objects inside for hours came back to me in a rush. I couldn't get enough. I dove deep into the study of Indian objects.
It was all a part of my work at the site. My understanding grew as did my passion. I am still crazy about the old stuff. My focus began with woodland art - and continues to be an exciting and vibrant study for me. In order to really understand the work, i had to know the history. it was all applicable.
Now I read as much as I can. I visit museums to study their objects and have made connections in the academic world that have been invaluable to me. The study I have made of this has sent me to study all over the continent and across the ocean, put me in front of the camera as well as behind it, in the papers and having written some of the stories. I remain a far better speaker than a wordsmith but this blog hopefully, will help me find parity in that part of my life.
In short, this blog will look at woodland art, my life as an artist, my family, my love of history, and hopefully will bring everything together here, at the edge of the woods.
Posted by Michael Galban at 8:55 PM