The painting, I See Red: Target (1992), was created by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

By Andrea Romano
July 06, 2020
Credit: Getty Images

A new, historic acquisition made by the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. is the first painting on canvas by a Native American artist to enter the museum’s permanent collection.

I See Red: Target (1992) is a painting by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Salish member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation in Montana, according to a statement from the National Gallery of Art.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, I See Red: Target, 1992, mixed media on canvasoverall (three parts): 340.4 x 106.7 cm (134 x 42 in.)National Gallery of Art, Washington Purchased with funds from Emily and Mitchell Rales
| Credit: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith/Courtesy of National Gallery of Art

The 11-foot mixed media work on canvas is part of Smith’s series that focuses on the complexities of Native American identity, made on the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas, according to the museum.

“I am thrilled to bring this exceptional work into the collection of the National Gallery of Art. I See Red: Target creates a meaningful dialogue among works in the collection to enrich our understanding of modern art. I am also delighted to add a major painting by a Native American woman artist to the Gallery's narrative of American art,” said Kaywin Feldman, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington, in the statement.

“On the one hand, it’s joyful; we’ve broken that buckskin ceiling,” Smith told USA Today. “On the other, it’s stunning that this museum hasn’t purchased a piece of Native American art [before].” According to USA Today, spokeswoman Anabeth Guthrie noted that the gallery also has “two dozen works on paper by Indigenous artists.” The museum has also hosted temporary exhibitions of Native American art in the past, according to the gallery’s statement. Still, given that there are over 4,000 paintings in the collection (not including other works), the recent timing of this milestone is nonetheless significant.

The top of the work features a dartboard game (hence, the name of the piece: Target), with the darts arranged to “allude to feathers in a headdress,” according to the gallery. Below the board is a mixture of news clippings, a comic book cover for Son of Tomahawk, a pennant from the Washington Redskins’ victory in Super Bowl XXVI , fabric, historic images of Native Americans, drips and stains of red paint, and other references to Native Americans in American culture. These elements were included to "call up issues of history, identity, race, and rage,” the gallery said in the statement.

“I reference Indians being the Target of the corporate world of mascots and consumer goods,” Smith said about her work. She grew up on the Flathead Reservation in Montana and holds a BA in art education from Framingham State College, as well as honorary doctorates from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art, and the University of New Mexico. She has been an artist, teacher, curator, and activist for many decades.