Title: Culuster’s Last Stand
Material: oil on canvas
Benteen, come on, big village, be quick. Bring packs. — George Armstrong Custer
When I was a yout, I did two weeks of church mission work on a Mesquakie Indian Reservation in Iowa. We were constantly visited with stickers and graffiti posted by Native Americans our own age reading, “Custer had it coming.” After I figured out what it meant, my eyes, ears and minds were opened. I had gone to Iowa to ‘convert the native’ but the ‘natives’ converted me. Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn’t.
“Culuster’s Last Stand” is an example of my changing a context to borrow one myth to leverage another in order to present a truth. I borrowed the subject, pose and symbolism from Andrea Mantegna’s “San Sebastian” in type-casting George Armstrong Custer as a poster boy for American arrogance. It may be our last stand, too, amid the ruins of a dysfunctional civilization.
Custer’s mismatched uniform comments on the Civil War surplus he and other Indian fighters were expected to use against better horsemen who very frequently even had superior fire-arms. The Sioux had their sources as well as their horses.
Note: The word “Culuster” in the title is a Latin word meaning “Asshole”.