A Shinnecock Artist’s Exhibit on LI

Ghost of the White Deer by Jeremy Dennis (Image via the Easthampton Star)

Jeremy Dennis, a young Shinnecock artist, has garnered attention over the past year through a photography project, “On This Site,” that has been exhibited at numerous locations on Long Island, most recently at Guild Hall, writes Mark Segal in The East Hampton Star. Dennis, 27, “maps culturally significant locations on Long Island” in the show, but this is only the latest of many projects through which the artist “explores issues relating to indigenous identity, assimilation, tradition, and history.”

The most fundamental theme of Mr. Dennis’s work is indigenous mythology, which is the basis for his “Stories,” an impressive work-in-progress that uses digital photography to create striking, elaborate, often dreamlike images to recreate Native American stories and legends.

Born and raised on the Shinnecock Reservation, Mr. Dennis earned a B.A. in studio art at Stony Brook University in 2013 and an M.F.A. from Penn State in 2016. His interest in narrative took root at Stony Brook. “I was really interested in more bizarre stories at that time,” he said during a conversation at Guild Hall.

He first pursued the myth idea through animation, then turned to intaglio etching, exposing the prints to different powders and chemicals. “The image was a cave with animals, and I was basing it on the myth of the coyote as the trickster figure, but also as a kind of savior.”

One source was the myth of Prometheus. “My story was similar. It had this anthropomorphic being that goes into the cave and sneaks past all these animals who are sleeping, and in the end he brings humans fire, so they can cook and take advantage of it. I’m really interested in these origin stories.”

In some of his work, Dennis uses digital manipulation to provide surreal, supernatural and spectral effects.

“Ghost of the White Deer” from 2016 is based on an indigenous oral story from the Chickasaw in Oklahoma. A shirtless brave lies in a clearing, wounded by an arrow, while an enormous ghostly white deer — a negative image — looms against a background of dramatic storm clouds. “This story was relevant to me in that it represents the sacredness and power of nature in relation to man,” he said.

Go to The East Hampton Star to read what Dennis has to say about what’s happening to the numerous sites on Long Island that are historic for Native Americans.

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