Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

What is an American?
  • Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
    born 1940
    born: Saint Ignatius, Flathead Reservation, Montana, United States
  • What is an American?, 2001–2003
  • Where object was made: United States
  • lithograph, metal grommets, acrylic paint, chine collé
  • Image Dimensions Height/Width: 1746 x 1017 mm
    Image Dimensions Height/Width: 68 3/4 x 40 1/16 in
    Sheet/Paper Dimensions: 1746 x 1017 mm
    Sheet/Paper Dimensions: 68 3/4 x 40 1/16 in
  • Museum purchase: Gift of Arthur V. Neis
  • Not on display
  • 2009.0127
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Power Clashing: Clothing, Collage, and Contemporary Identities", 18-Nov-2017
Quick-to-See Smith models her work after the Native American parfleche, a folded rawhide carrying bag. These bags were traditionally decorated with images that related the personal and cultural histories of those who used them. In her contemporary take on a parfleche, Smith conjures a history of assimilation and hybrid identities. The central striding figure wears traditional Native American dress, although the cropping of the work at the head and ankles deliberately obscures the wearer’s gender and ethnicity. The figure is surrounded by images of white-American pop culture, including Mickey Mouse, Barbie dolls, and the repeated image of a buffalo reproduced from U.S. postage stamps. Made in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, What is an American? explores expressions of national identity while pointing to a long history of injustices on American soil.