Dr. LeAnne Howe, Professor of American Literature at the University of Georgia, speaks as the dinner speaker at the Branding the American West Symposium at the BYU Museum of Art on Friday, March 4. She reads her piece, “Savage Conversations.”
On March 2, 2016 I traveled to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah for the Branding the American West Symposium, and to celebrate the publication of the book (above) by the same name. My friend, poet and scholar Dean Rader got me involved in the book project and art exhibition about two years ago. We all had various assignments, his was to write about art and landscapes. His essay, “Part of the Strangeness, Notes On Landscapes And the American West,” tackles artists such as Walter Ufer, Maynard Dixon, and Kenneth Miller Adams, among others, and discuss the tensions in their work. My assignment was to write about classic Hollywood movies and representations about Indians. “Imagine There’s No Cowboy, It’s Easy If you Try,” is about images in films that portray American Indians as “savages.” It’s a first person account of growing up in Oklahoma and watching bad Westerns on tv every Friday night and hoping that just once the Indians would defeat the cowboys. It never happened. Today the academic industry of critical inquiry known as “settler colonialism,” frankly does nothing to alleviate the suffering of “the person[s] to whom things happen,” paraphrasing Virginia Woolf. Uh-hem.
In Branding The American West, Rader’s essay opens the book and mine closes it. Call us bookends. The lovely coffee table book, edited by Marian Wardle and Sarah Boehme, is filled with essays about the west. Authors included are: Jon Ott, Jimmy L. Bryan, Susan Rugh, and Elizabeth Hutchins. Check it out at your local bookstores or online.