Wearable Art uproar

“Appropriation” is a polite word for theft. When Christy NaMee Eriksen led the charge publicly condemning an artist with it at the Wearable Arts show, it’s unfortunate the proceedings got high-jacked by their defamatory accusations. ( Talk about “appropriation”! )

This is a shameful black-eye to the creative face of Juneau. The parties causing the uproar ironically wind up coming across as fascist and racist.

Notwithstanding that race has zero to do with one’s culture, we’re led to believe that if artist Beth Bolander hadn’t white skin, her creation might have flown uncontested. But we can suspect this uproar stems from feminist distaste of the rigid role of geisha identity, period.

NaMee Eriksen intones “culture is not costume.” Bingo! These were costume creations, artistic decoration, and not worn in the street. No issues apply. Further, well-discussed appropriation concerns have to do with commercial use, which doesn’t apply.

An anthropology class I took taught me “Your culture is everything about you that you are NOT aware of as culture.” Open your bathroom vanity and that’s your culture. Yes, it’s definitely not costumes at celebrations.

Let’s hope this travesty doesn’t bring a chilling effect on the creative output for future Wearable Arts shows. I’d like to see the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council bring back Bolander’s piece at next year’s show, as a mission statement of fearless solidarity with artistic inspiration. I’ll bet they can even get a geisha to give it a blessing as well!

Tony Tengs,


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