Every Object Has A Ritual by Selena Kearney
8 x 9 inches, 29 color images; board book, 48 pages; $50 plus shipping
Photographer Selena Kearney deftly pulls viewers into a complex dialogue through her series “Object / Ritual.” Over five years, she acquired, borrowed, and was given an array of costumes, masks, clothing, and sports fanwear that reference Native American regalia, and stereotypes of Indigenous culture.
Photographing each in an isolated black box format, Kearney summoned her own pained curiosity, while through this visual choice offered rebuke to how sacred artifacts from Indigenous cultures have been similarly displayed as trophies in many museums and cultural institutions. In Kearney’s photographs, the cheap materiality of most of the objects draws attention to exaggerated associations under the guise of representing the homogenized “Indian.”
Every Object Has A Ritual is presented in a format commonly associated with children’s picture books, demonstrating in its physicality how cultural harm has been perpetrated in seemingly innocuous ways. Publication of this series pushes against the ongoing use of Indigenous mascots to represent national and regional sports teams, and against the sanitized language that has been eagerly embraced by mainstream settler culture to minimize the violent and manipulative histories experienced by First Nations in the formation of what is now the United States.
An exhibition of Kearney's work from the series Object/Ritual will be on view at Solas Gallery, Seattle, November 25, 2023 to January 20, 2024.
Raised on the Chehalis Reservation in the state of Washington, Selena Kearney (b. 1979) uses photography as a tool to serve her community, and as a vehicle for artistic expression, a practice rooted in kinship, relationality, and representation from her experience as an Indigenous person.
Kearney holds a Certificate in Fine Art Photography from Photographic Center Northwest, a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from Evergreen State College, and is pursuing her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was the skipper for the elder-led canoe family from Suquamish, Spirit of the Raven.