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APR '55

Essay/Description

The artwork of Bobby C. Martin, of the Muscogee Nation, often explores multilayered concepts of Indigenous identity through nonlinear time frames. The artist’s iconic aesthetic of superimposed historical imagery, frequently featuring his personal collection of family photographs, invites viewers to interpret his works through multiple lenses.

Martin created APR ’55 for his Master of Fine Arts exhibition in 1995 at the University of Arkansas.1 The primary layer is a family picture of the artist’s Great Aunt Ollamay and Uncle Frank, who lived around Council Hill, a town in Muskogee County. The couple is posed in front of their car, believed to be a 1952 Chevrolet Deluxe. The image was taken before the leaves had returned to the trees (visible in the background), suggesting late winter or early spring. The film was developed in April 1955, indicated by the developer’s date stamp at the top, giving the work its title.

The secondary layer, an excerpt from the Dawes Roll,2 bears witness to the tribal enrollment information of Martin’s “Granny” Mabel Carr. The Dawes Roll codifies Indigenous identity for the Five Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole), and here the artist visually interweaves his genealogy, family photographs, and ancestral territory, as well as allotment-era Indigenous histories in Indian Territory (later known as Oklahoma). APR ’55 is a palimpsest of Martin’s Indigenous identity, providing the audience with a nuanced and multilayered perspective of the omnipresence of Indigenous history.

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

This text was developed from an interview with Bobby C. Martin by Jordan Poorman Cocker, April 13, 2021

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1 APR ’55 was accessioned by Gilcrease Museum in 1998.
2 The intention of the Dawes Rolls and Dawes Commission, authorized by the federal government in 1893, was to deprive Native Americans of their identity, lands, and resources. Readers are encouraged to do further research on this important issue on their own; the website for the Cherokee Heritage Center, for example, provides more background and links to additional resources.

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Title(s): 
APR '55
Creator(s): 
Bobby C. Martin (Artist)
Culture: 
Native American; Muscogee (Creek)
Date: 
1994
Materials/Techniques: 
mixed media on canvas
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
01.2503
Previous Number(s): 
TL1998.40; 0127.2503; 0227.2503; 0227.2503
Department: 
Not On View

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