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Ishi Glinsky’s exhibition explores monuments of survival that honor the sacred practices of his tribe, the Tohono O’odham Nation, native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Upon entering Chris Sharp Gallery I am instantly subsumed by Glinsky’s monolithically scaled leather jacket that levitates in the middle of the room. Coral vs. King Snake Jacket (2019) is colossally sublime, towering just over 10 feet tall. I feel an immediate desire to get close to the sculpture. I imagine crawling into the pocket of the worn-in jacket to discover an old receipt or a matchbox. The teeth of the zipper form interlocking arrowheads. Each crease in the leather recalls a story, a gesture, a history; each stud a piercing act of violence. As I look over each intricate detail, I notice that the jacket is adorned with an assortment of patches and pins, as leather jackets often are. Some are insignias for bands like Public Enemy and the Dead Kennedys, while others signify Native American activist groups, such as AIM (The American Indian Movement), and MMIW, stitched in black and red beads to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women. The sleeve of the jacket reads “YOSEMITE MEANS THOSE WHO KILL.” While the leather jacket’s hard exterior is a cultural symbol for rebellion, it also offers warmth and protection. Glinsky’s work embodies Indigenous history, resistance and survival.

The radically oversized scale of Glinsky’s sculpture pays homage to Indigenous practices and native land that has historically been exploited and unrecognized. Western-hegemonic art history recalls monumental art by minimalist giants and land artists like Donald Judd and James Turrell, who have historically exploited stolen land, using it as a backdrop for their work. Art history works to reinforce violent colonialist narratives. We need new monuments and new storytellers. Glinsky’s sculpture acts as a counter monument that acknowledges and celebrates Indigenous people and their survival. While minimalism offers ahistorical universal ideals, Glinsky’s monument denounces dominance and claims resistance.

Indigenous scholar and activist Gerald Vizenor characterizes “survivance” as an active sense of native presence over absence, nihility, and victimry. Survivance carries forward Indigenous stories through collective memories and embodied practices.[1] Glinsky’s monument announces and honors Indigenous survival, demanding space for remembrance and existence.