“T.C. Cannon (1946-1978, Caddo/Kiowa) is one of the most inventive Native Artists in America.”
The above quote was one of the first text areas visitors were able to see when they walked into T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America, perfectly foreshadowing the moving experience that they are about to be a part of. Born to a Kiowa father and Caddo mother, Tommy Wayne (T.C.) Cannon was raised in Oklahoma. His works were influenced by the unsteady political climate and his own experiences as a Native American serving in the Vietnam War. As an artist, poet, and guitarist, Cannon had multiple ways to connect with individuals in a way that would reshape their understanding of American history.
As you walked through the exhibit, visitors would have seen paintings full of color and light, original sketches, and even his personal guitar, which was used to create an original song for the exhibit. Each of his works was done portraying the Native American experience, provoking the viewer to reevaluate how they commonly look at pieces and think about the meaning behind them.
My experience with this exhibit goes back to where it was created, at the Peabody Essex Museum. Karen Kramer, Curator of Native American and Oceanic Art and Culture, created this exhibit and gave a personal tour to the group of Native American Fellows that I was a part of over the summer. Karen did such an amazing job of putting this together, in which was clearly visible to all of us, as we were all tearing up while being guided through. Knowing that this exhibit was traveling to Tulsa, I was ecstatic to be able to experience it once more, or even a number of times! Laura Fry, Senior Curator and Curator of Art at the Gilcrease Museum continued to amaze not only myself, but also other visitors with the breathtaking and colorful exhibit. It is important that Cannon’s work and his message continues to reach people, as it shows not only the work of an incredible artist, but his point of view as he lived his life in America. Gilcrease website stated, “Amid ongoing national and global conversations about ethnic identity, social justice, land rights and cultural appropriation, Cannon’s work continues to engage issues that are as relevant now as they were 50 years ago.”
T.C. Cannon’s work grabbed the attention of onlookers and forced them to step back a moment and see what experiences he faced throughout his life. As the exhibit stated, his work asked the visitors to truly think about what it means to be an American, allowing the visitors to continually think as they exited. As it leaves Tulsa and goes on to its next destination, there is no doubt that it will continue inspiring and enlightening others.
Museum Science and Management Student Emily Hammill