|Born||1960 (age 57–58)|
Crow Indian Reservation
Spang is an enrolled member of the Tsitsistas/Suhtai (Northern Cheyenne) Nation in southeastern Montana and was born at the Crow-Northern Cheyenne Indian Hospital on the Crow Reservation located in Crow Agency, Montana in 1960. Spang grew up both on and off the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, living in places such as Sitka, Alaska and Portland, Oregon .:300 He graduated from Montana State University Billings and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from 2007 to 2009 as a full-time Visiting Faculty Member in Video. The University of Wyoming's American Indian Study Program named Spang its "Eminent Artist in Residence" for the spring semester of 2014. During this time he taught a class on Native American art and held exhibitions at the university's art museum. Spang now works as an independent artist and has a studio in Billings, Montana.
Spang's early work included mixed media sculptures, often made out of metal, and installations. His later work focused on incorporating digital technologies such as film and photography. Spang drew inspiration for his work in mixed media from how his Cheyenne ancestors incorporated European materials into their artwork; he has stated, "There was this fearlessness about mediums that we don't really have today." Spang considers his art autobiographical, addressing his cultural identity as a Cheyenne living in a modern society and bridging the gap between these two worlds.:288–289 Spang often adds humor to his works to help present these themes to his audience.
For example, in his sculpture Pevah (meaning "good" in Cheyenne), Spang used stone and wood to signify the Cheyenne part of him, and he used aluminum to signify the contemporary world. In constructing the project, he explained, "The metal binds the stone, the wood binds them both. I am bound by my culture; we are still here after all.":295 Another one of Spang's sculptures is inspired by the Cheyenne tradition of adorning the fringe of war shirts with the hairs from the warrior's community. The fringe on Spang's War Shirt #1 is likewise composed of the photographic negatives of people he knows to show that he draws his strength from the community.
Spang collaborated with techno DJ Bert Benally to create the Techno Pow Wow, a mix of rave dance culture with into a traditional pow wow. This piece was inspired by the 1990s electronic music movement. Spang claimed that the energy and effortless dancing reminded him of the pow wows at the reservation. Spang performed as part of this piece as "The Blue Guy", the tribal chief figure of the future. Through the installation's mix of cultural music and dance, Spang hoped to showcase the similarities between Native American and modern culture. In his New American Relics: Redux 2 (2009), Spang satirized museums and anthropologists' depiction of indigenous America as a "lost culture" using irony. He designed a futuristic museum exhibit for the "vit-heut" (meaning "white man" in Northern Cheyenne) with "artifacts" molded from the plastic encasings of ordinary modern objects.
From February to March 2014, Spang presented his "Bently Spang: On Fire" exhibition at the University of Wyoming Art Museum, which told the story of the 2012 Ash Creek wildfire. In July 2017, Spang presented the video installation "War Shirt #6 – Waterways" as part of his Modern Warrior Series, at the Dry Creek Schoolhouse in Belgrade, Montana. The installation was a series of moving images within a steel war shirt conveying Spang's relationship with water.
Awards and recognition
In 2003, Spang won an Outstanding Alumni Award from MSU Billings for "Exceptional Contribution" and a Woodrow Wilson Foundation: Imagining America grant. The next year, he was awarded a Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Grant for his residency in conjunction with the Techno Powwow Project. Spang has also gained artist fellowships from the Creative Capital Foundation and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. He was one of the eight artists who received the 2017 Artist's Innovation Award from the Montana Arts Council.
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- Bently Spang
- The artist
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- "American Indian Housing Initiative Will Link Tribal and Academic Communities". College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. University of Wisconsin-Madison. May 18, 2005. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
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- Patricia A., Johnston (2006). Seeing High & Low: Representing Social Conflict in American Visual Culture. Berkeley, CA: University of California. pp. 138–9. ISBN 9780520241886.
- "Bently Spang: Techno Powwow: Overview". Creative Capital. New York, NY. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
- Larsen, Jessica Hunter (Fall 2007). "Tekcno Powwow: Ancient Rhythms for the I-Pod Generation" (PDF). La Tertulia. 23 (3). Retrieved August 18, 2018.
- "Eminent Artist in Residence Bently Spang Public Programs Scheduled at UW". University of Wyoming. January 31, 2014. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
- Webb, Jaci (July 20, 2017). "WaterWorks series features celebrated Northern Cheyenne artist Bently Spang". Billings Gazette. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
- Ragain, Melissa (August 17, 2018). "Artists Reflect on Water Scarcity in a Gentrifying Montana Town". Hyperallergic. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
- Gianelli, Sarah (July 19, 2017). "'WaterWorks' flows to the wetlands". Explore Big Sky. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
- "Outstanding Alumni of the 2nd Millennium". Montana State University Billings. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- Webb, Jaci (January 2, 2018). "Northern Cheyenne artist Bently Spang wins MAC award". Billings Gazette. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
- Bently Spang interview by Larry Abbott on Britesites