Two sides to every story

Anchorage resident and UAA alumnus, James Temte, has his newest collection of work, “Depredations,” displayed in the ARC Gallery outside of the UAA/APU Consortium Library.

Temte’s inspiration for his latest exhibit was sparked three years ago when he was in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He walked through an exhibit that made him think of his ancestors as abstract artists, through the beadwork and patterns found in those days.

From then, Temte started research on the art and artifacts through museums and books. Through learning cultural contexts and history and continuing research, Temte stumbled across a photograph of a couple of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, the tribe Temte is from, standing in front of their teepee.

“I thought ‘oh, this is great. Just a couple standing in front of their home.’ I flipped it over to see the description on the back and it said ‘teepee of the Northern Cheyenne Indians, the tribe that committed depredations…” Temte said. “But when I turned the photo over, that’s not what I saw. I saw this beautiful couple standing in front of their home. I think it triggered something like, ‘who’s telling the story here?’ ‘Who’s writing history?’ They make no mention of the two people in the photo… This is a classic example of, you know when one side tells the history and that’s all that the only side we hear.”

"Finding My Shadow" by James Temte. Temte's exhibit, "Depredations" will be on display at the ARC Gallery outside of the UAA/APU Consortium Library until May 18. Photo credit: James Temte

The Wyoming-raised artist, Temte, took that photo to heart as it hit him like “a sucker punch.” He read more on the Native American perspective and started art that reflected that perspective. The abstract art located in the ARC Gallery has meaning and feeling behind it all.

“Some of the pieces took a shift. There’ll be a few pieces at the show that really depict kind of some abstractions, the beadwork patterns and some signs and symbols that I love — these were kind of in the honeymoon phase of this project. And then it takes a turn; there’ll be a few pieces that are kind of heavy,” Temte said.

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One of his pieces is entitled “Blood on My Hands” which shows both sides of history. Temte said he was trying to depict being sympathetic to the Native Americans and angry at the white men, but he himself is mixed. His father is white and his mother Native American.

“The piece is kind of two-sided; one side represents the white man’s perspective and one side represents the Native American perspective. They’re both kind of graphic, violent images and it’s just supposed to portray: if we see something from the other side, if we take time to see something from the other side’s perspective, your story is not much different from ours,” Temte said.

Temte has been pursuing art “seriously” for about four years though has always had a love for it. He graduated with a bachelor’s in molecular biology from Fort Lewis College and received his master’s in applied environmental science and technology at UAA.

“Depredations” is on exhibit until May 18.