Visiting Artist-Larry McNeil (2010)

Larry McNeil visited our school, and presented his best work. He is photographer and printmaker. He would take photographs of his family and his way of life. The main theme of his artwork is his own social identity. He wants to convey his own social identity along with the identity of his family. He also wants to display the intersection of cultures, between his own Native American culture and that of the modern American culture. His work accurately shows all of these themes, and when he talked about his art and explained his motives it became clearer. His art has a lot of deep messages within it, and that is why I really enjoyed his presentation. His work was not meant merely for visual pleasure, but it also told stories.

I enjoyed his presentation because of how personal he made all of his art to himself. He would talk about a simple looking photo or print, and manage to tell many stories about it. He took a photo of him and his father fishing, and he told us many personal stories and flashbacks pertaining to this one photo. It was surprising to me to see how much of his own experiences he conveyed in his art. It enlightened me on an entirely new theme of artwork, and I respect that completely. His common theme throughout his art was his family and his own way of life. It seemed like he could talk about his art and his theme for as long as he wanted without stopping. He was that passionate about his work. The element of his work that evoked my respect was the simplicity of some of his photos. He took very simple photos, and he would be able to tell us a lot about the subject matter of each photo. I always thought there would have to be a lot of detail in art to be able to talk as thoroughly as he did, and he proved me wrong.

The most interesting method he used in his artwork that he talked about was his printmaking. He would implement quotes and many different images within his prints. At first glance I was not able to make any sense of what he would put within each print, however when he would explain his thought process of how each piece of the print connected to the other in some way. He connected the images in his art in many ways, and he discussed many of those ways with us in his lecture. To go back to the theme of his work, his main message throughout his entire collection of prints and photos is his own way of life and the intersection of cultures. A common symbol used in his work is a raven, which symbolized himself. He would implement a raven in each piece no matter what in some way.

McNeil used digital photography to take all of his photos and to make all of his prints. He is a very talented photographer, in the aspect being able to capture the theme of his art very well in each photo. A great example of this is the photo titled “Real Indians”. This photo was of a sign that read “real Indians” and the subtle humor of the sign caught the attention of McNeil. This photo captures both the theme of social identity and the theme of intersection of cultures. His social identity was shown in the stereotypical way of other cultures, while other cultures try and use his culture as a method of income.

The most powerful factor of his work was that he managed to make everything he has made relate to each other somehow. One thing he did to make sure that would happen was that he would always implement the common theme of social identity in all of his pieces. Because of that, every small image or detail he would place in his art would relate to his theme, and also his other artwork. His material functioned as a method of creating his theme. His printmaking is a good example of that. In his photos he managed to capture his theme on camera. His technique of using multiple images and quotes functioned well in conveying his theme, and the simplicity of his photos did the same thing. The design of his photos and prints made his work have a more serious tone, with a little subtle humor. All of these factors contribute to his work as a whole because they all did the main job in conveying his theme accurately. They all contributed differently but in the end product they showed his theme very well.

Larry McNeil wanted to show his lifestyle through his artwork; the lifestyle of a modern Native American. This lifestyle is not typically well known in our society today. This is why his work is so fascinating, because not a lot is known about his lifestyle. I enjoyed his presentation, and I can relate to being a minority like how he is. I made the connection of having a different lifestyle then the typical American would have. In my own lifestyle, family is a major part of my life. The same goes with Larry McNeil. He made connections throughout his artwork, and his art also made a connection with me and made me reflect on my own social identity. His artwork has a very powerful theme, and his theme is what makes it so powerful.

One Response

  1. You seem to have really enjoyed this lecture and learned a lot from it! I liked reading how you connected to the artist, I think that’s awesome. The only suggestion I have is to work on making your sentences smoother. They are a little short and choppy in some parts of the paper, which makes the paper hard to read sometimes. Otherwise, your ideas were both interesting and clearly conveyed. Great job!

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