Date of Award
Dr. Kate Willink
American Indian, art, discourse, identity, representation, sovereignty
Author: Noell Ross Jackson
Title: VIRGIL ORTIZ: AMERICAN INDIAN ARTIST, REPRESENTATIONAL
TRICKSTER, AND IDENTITY SHAPESHIFTER
Advisor: Dr. Kate Willink
Degree Date: August 2009
This study opens the door for a re-thinking of how discourse shapes American
Indian representation and identity. As such, contemporary American Indian artist, Virgil
Ortiz, his art, and the discourse surrounding both art and artist are examined to reveal the
strategies and tactics employed in his constitution of a politics of representation that
broaden the spectrum of considerations of American Indian identity.
Critical invention is the orientation through which two methodological
approaches are intertextually applied. A critical rhetorical approach is employed to
analyze both the vernacular discourse produced by Ortiz and the dominant discourse
constructed by the dominant culture. Sorrells (1999) theoretical and methodological
approach to reading intercultural imagery is also applied to conduct a visual analysis of
To contextually frame an understanding of Ortiz and his work, a literature review
and a historical chapter are included. The literature review details the linking of
American Indian cultural identity, collective identity, and cultural sovereignty to the
production of American Indian art; examines art and American Indian identity; and
investigates art and the production of a politics of representation. The historical chapter
reveals the poetics and politics of American Indian discursive constructions by both the
dominant culture and American Indians.
The theme of sadomasochistic dominance and submission (SMDS) is explored in
Ortiz's art to understand how it communicatively operates through vernacular discourse.
Ortiz's marketing through branding and personal branding is analyzed to understand how
Ortiz both subverts and complies with the dominant culture's current entrenchment in
commodity capitalism and in stale American Indian representations.
The measure of representational sovereignty that Ortiz asserts is evident in the
mediums and the media in which he participates. This study reveals that Ortiz produces a
counter discourse that disturbs hegemonic notions of American Indians; promotes more
prismatic considerations of American Indian identity, rather than one-dimensional stale
stereotypes or two-dimensional restraining binaries; and offers alternative American
Indian archetypes for consideration. Ortiz draws from the mainstream to the margins and
the surface to the subterranean to create a politics of representation that promotes an
understanding of multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, and multiple American Indian identity
articulations, which move American Indians closer to signification self-sovereignty.
Jackson, Noell Ross, "Virgil Ortiz: American Indian Artist, Representational Trickster, and Identity Shapeshifter" (2009). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 831.
Recieved from ProQuest
Noell Ross Jackson
Communication, Native American studies, Ethnic studies