On October 12, Artists Space hosted a launch event for A.i.A.’s October issue on contemporary Indigenous art, with a screening curated by Maria Hupfield and Jason Lujan of Native Art Department International, followed by a discussion of the works with the curators and art historian Jessica L. Horton. The panel was followed by remembrances of Lloyd Oxendine (1942–2015), an artist and curator who was instrumental in the publication of A.i.A.’s 1972 Native American issue. Remarks were shared by Diane Fraher (Osage/Cherokee) and David Bunn Martine (Nednai-Chiricahua Apache-Shinnecock/Montauk), respectively the founding director and chairman of Amerinda Inc., an organization that works to promote Native American artists and foster opportunities for intercultural exchange. After posting Oxendine’s 1972 article “23 Contemporary Indian Artists,” we are sharing Fraher and Martine’s comments to honor his legacy and contribution to A.i.A. —Eds.
DIANE FRAHER I first met Lloyd when I was a student and involved in a Native resistance action in New York that received some attention in the press. He had been involved in resistance while a student at Columbia University. We discussed strategy and I discovered that we had both come to New York for essentially the same reasons—to go to school and because New York was a place where ordinary people could accomplish extraordinary things. We both believed that it held the same promise for Native people.
It was during that time that I realized that Lloyd felt called, in a sense, to liberate Native people as artists. He was not ambitious or a self-promoter at all, but rather felt this calling to achieve something on behalf of all Native people. When people met him they sensed the utter truthfulness of his conviction, and that was what compelled people to support him.
He did not want to assimilate and be coopted by greed and a search for fame. He would tire of the crushing burden of institutional racism, retreating into his demons, only to remerge again to mentor and organize a new group of Native artists in the community.
He could be difficult and curmudgeonly, but his humor was always lifesaving—for him and us! He had a sense of adventure which drove him to New York in the first place. When people recall him they often talk about going somewhere with him to do something or meet someone they never expected.
When he passed on, a Native artist declared in Indian Country Today that “any Native artist presenting work today owes a debt of gratitude to Lloyd.” He achieved his dream by being an artist/curator but his vision of commitment to community lives on today in the work of young artist/activists, like the ones whose work was screened here tonight.
DAVID BUNN MARTINE My first memory of Lloyd Oxendine was during the period when he had created the Native North American Artists organization and he had invited me and other young artists from across the country to show our work in New York. “In Beauty It is Begun” was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Junior Museum in 1973. I had done two drawings of birds at that time, and members of the Shinnecock Nation brought a tour bus to the museum and performed a series of dances outside the main entrance. The co-curators were George Morrison, G. Peter Jemison, and Lori Shepard. That was a memorable day, my first actual art reception. To have so much attention brought to my work was new for me. I will always be grateful to have been in that show. My mother had known Lloyd before because she had been on the American Indian Community House board, but that was the beginning of a forty-year friendship for me.
The next wonderful period of working and exhibiting with Lloyd came in the late 1980s, when he founded the Rider With No Horse art group, on the premise that Native artists were having difficulty getting their work into spaces because of lack of understanding and acceptance. He created a series of shows under that banner and found venues all around the city. I’ll always remember that Lloyd, because of his great concern for the promoting and strengthening of Native American art in general and New York Native artists in particular, had very little patience for hypocrisy and artificiality when it came to the image and profile of Native American art. In addition to that, I’ll always remember his knowledge and wry sense of humor.
Finally, for a short period time during the 1990s, Lloyd was the only non-Shinnecock member of the board of directors at the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum. Our museum, located on the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton, will always be grateful for his contributions. Just having his presence there lent great credibility and credentials to the organization at a time most necessary to our growing museum. As current director and curator of the Shinnecock Museum, I think Lloyd felt a kinship to the Shinnecock people because it reminded him a little of his own Lumbee tribe and the upbringing that influenced his life and work.