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Installation view, book-shaped lightbox, shelves along wall with books and photos
detail of book-shaped lightbox
detail of three paperback romance novels on shelf

Jeff Thomas
A Study of Indianness
March 10 - April 1, 2006

Jeff Thomas looks at the form of the book and the genre of romance novels to raise questions about identity and the contemporary experience of himself as an urban Iroquois. Whether photographing First Nations tourists wearing T-shirts and logo-emblazoned hats at Ottawa monuments, where they stand in contrast to the trumped-up figuration of bronze statuary and the heavy-handed bias of authoritative plaques, or assembling Harlequin romances featuring the eroticized figures of bare-chested First Nations men, Thomas exposes the biases of the imagery that routinely distorts history and memory around First Nations identity as it is expressed in the public and popular realms.

I am an urban-Iroquois, born in the city of Buffalo, New York in 1956. My parents and grandparents were born at the Six Nations reserve, near Brantford, Ontario and left the reserve to find work in the city.

You won't find a definition for 'urban Iroquois' in any dictionary or anthropological publication--it is this absence that informs my work as a photo-based artist, researcher, independent curator, cultural analyst and public speaker. My study of Indian-ness seeks to create an image bank of my urban-Iroquois experience, as well as re-contextualize historical images of First Nations people for a contemporary audience. Ultimately, I want to dismantle long entrenched stereotypes and inappropriate caricatures of First Nations people.