Wendy Red Star

Democracy Cohort
Visual Artist

Wendy Red Star uses visual art to expose flawed narratives about Native people.

As a member of the Crow Nation, Wendy Red Star was raised on the Crow reservation in Montana that encompassed two million acres, six towns, and three mountain ranges. Growing up on the reservation, Wendy felt “an intimate sense of belonging” and loved being immersed in Crow culture. And yet, in her public school, Crow history wasn’t taught. In fact, Wendy didn’t start to learn about Native American history until college, and it inspired a ground-up re-education. Today, Wendy aims to share that knowledge, visually, with a broader audience.

Wendy’s work spans photography, collage, sculpture, video, fiber art, and performance. An avid researcher, she re-examines cultural artifacts and historical imagery, using them as the foundation for beautifully annotated photographs and installations. With works that are at once inquisitive, witty, and unsettling, she aims to make space for Native women’s voices in contemporary art and create a strong foundation of knowledge for future generations.

Through the 1800s, many delegations traveled to Washington, D.C. to negotiate for their territory, language, and culture. In 1873, the first such Crow Indian Delegation — a group of nine chiefs and three of their wives — traveled from Montana to meet with President Ulysses S. Grant. Many delegations repeated this voyage, sometimes finding favor, but more often being strong-armed into concessions. Portraits from these Native American delegations are the true visual records of Native leaders fighting for their people.

With the Emerson Collective Fellowship, Wendy will bring these narratives to life in on-going excavation of the images, documents, and material culture from the Crow Delegations to Washington, D.C. between 1873 to 1920. Mining archives, she’ll look at the historical events that prompted these trips, understand the negotiations taking place, and unearth the delegations’ experiences in their travels. The end result will be an immersive installation, shedding new light on this overlooked chapter of US history.