U of Wisconsin, Madison

Rebecca Comfort

Rebecca Comfort
Art 576: Advanced Photography
Digital Prints; 18″ x 12″ & 9″ x 6″

I’m examining the relationship between perceptions of American Indians and signage in Monona, WI that utilizes American Indian names/terms, some of which are offensive. The street signs encompass an eight-block neighborhood situated around Squaw Bay. A law in Monona states that an Indian may not own land; when Native members of the community asked the city council to remove the age-old law, the city council refused stating that it was “not enforced, and therefore not important.” Each street sign image will be juxtaposed next to two smaller accompanying images to provoke thought about Monona’s cultural climate.

11 thoughts on “Rebecca Comfort”

  1. I’d be interested to see what other images you pair with the street signage. The second image is great- you have a really tight handle on composition and color, and your intent on documenting the meaning comes through very clearly. I’m not sure whether it’s because of the grayscale or the method of display, but the first image isn’t as strong; in context with the second, the images could be read as studies on words as images.

  2. I, too, am interested in the use and manipulation of Native imagery and names. For the past few years, I have used both polaroid and digital images of cigar-store indian stautes and other caricatures, and juxtaposing them with images of actual Native people I know doing what may be considered non-traditional activities (skateboarding, playing music, using iPads and cell phones in the dance arena) as a means of showing the viewer that native people have changed as well. We are not stuck in these stereotypical ideas of what we should look or act like. It’s not necessarily confrontational or political in my approach, but just giving people a reason to think about the fact that people and cultures DO change. Though your images are not so much based on content, the words alone caught me and caused me to think about things I have about thinking about quite a bit myself.

  3. The concept of this piece is very interesting. I like how your are being controversial, bringing up a topic of interest to you and finding away to expose it to the world. I would like to see the other signs and jargon that you took.
    The second image do find stronger than the first just because of the great use of negative space and the overall exposure of the image is nice.
    The first image is a well taken image, great quality, but for some reason I don’t find it as strong, maybe because it feels a bit crowded, but overall a nice image and it works for the project your are working on.

  4. I really enjoy these two images, especially the simplicity of them. I like how they are monocrome in the way that the blue sign matches the blue sky and the upper image is done in black and white. It makes me wonder what It means, because it’s such an obscure word. I really like the fingernail painting on the top image, and how it really does lead the eyes to the card. The focal points are on key here, although I’m not too sure if my eye keeps getting distracted in the bottom image, because there is a lot of negative space, and the sign leads the from side to side, and not into the upper image.

  5. Although your subjects in both shots are centered, it works wonderfully in your case. Both compositions work extremely well! The concept behind your photos is interesting and I would love to see it more developed. The bottom shot doesn’t seem to be controversial at first glance, the two blues make the photo seems relaxed. However, once you know the theme of your photos, the viewer is challenged. Lovely shots!

  6. i like the relationship between the images in a couple different ways. the different size, orientation, and color works really well. hand written vs. printed is nice. i also like how you are showing a highly meaningful topic that has a large impact on many people with very simple photos. i would like to see more.

  7. I love the idea behind this visual investigation of yours. I would certainly love to see more out of this series as well. Both photos are well crafted, engaging, and interesting to look at. Both are also successful at invoking questions in myself, the viewer.

  8. I think the idea and your photos are really great. The bottom photo is very eye-catching and makes you wonder the meaning behind this word. Then the top photo gives this idea sort of a human and personal element to it, making your idea very successful. If it were me, I would probably add more of the face in it, even if it was just the mouth. Just enough to see some sort of emotion and feeling. I think its working really nicely, though!

  9. It amazes me that offensive imagery and terminology is still used and seen as a way of preserving American history when they are only presenting prejudice that survives through stereotypes. Bringing to light an injustice that is very close to your community makes this piece successful in the idea itself. The photos are very nice, and honest. Good work.

  10. Wow, I was immediately struck by your first image and the way that “squaw” instantly stuck out. Upon scrolling further to the second image, I was again struck by the word, but for the fact that it was actually on a street sign. I am not Native American, but I live in very close proximity to the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in Hayward, WI and my mom works at the LCO college. As such, I grew up with a lot of the culture and have seen many of the prejudices that Native Americans still face. I honestly cannot believe that Monona still has a law like you mentioned still in place. It is extremely offensive and I hope that your photos have called some more attention to it. These two are beautiful in the way you photographed them, but so sad in their meaning.

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