I Think It Goes Like This (Gold)
For Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast such as Galanin (Tlingit and Unangax̂), the totem pole is a ceremonial object used to celebrate events, depict stories, and document family lineage.
In I Think It Goes Like This (Gold), a seemingly Indigenous-made totem pole is covered in gold leaf but lies dismantled on the ground. Contrary to the viewers original understanding of the object, this is not a cultural tool of memory making and community. It is a carving by an Indonesian artist created to sell as a souvenir to tourists in Alaska.
Through his intervention of destruction and reassembly to the original carving and application of gold leaf, Galanin creates dialogue about the economy of cultural appropriation while reclaiming the work as Indigenous art.
Wood, paint, and gold leaf
to (Peter Blum Gallery, New York, NY); purchased by Art Bridges, TX, 2020
Situated on the traditional, ancestral territories of the Séliš (Salish or “Flathead”) and Qlispé (upper Kalispel or Pend d’Oreille) peoples, the Missoula Art Museum (MAM) seeks to recognize the Indigenous stewards of the land it occupies through their collecting practices and programming.
In spring 2021, MAM borrowed Nicholas Galanin’s I Think It Goes Like This (Gold) from the Art Bridges collection and installed it in their Lynda M. Frost gallery, an art space dedicated to the display and interpretation of contemporary American Indian art. Featuring a deconstructed non-Alaskan Native made tourist commodity totem pole covered in gold leaf, the conceptual work engages with art reclamation, while critically examines appropriation and exploitation of Indigenous culture.