By Taylor Dafoe
In the light-filled gymnasium of an old schoolhouse in Hudson, New York, a punching bag adorned with neon beads and tassels hangs near a long-forgotten basketball hoop. A totemic sculpture stands in a carpeted classroom and masks are strung through the woodshop.
This is the studio of Jeffrey Gibson, a Choctaw-Cherokee artist known for his signature hybrid of Native American iconography and materials with late-capitalist aesthetics. It’s Indigenous Futurism, to borrow a label posited by Anishinaabe writer Grace L. Dillon: the regalia of pow-wows meets that of ‘90s rave culture, while quilted tapestries are patterned with Op art.
“People think I know what’s going to happen when I produce a new body of work, but I don’t,” Gibson says, sitting at a desk in what was, presumably, the principal’s office. “For someone who works across as many materials and formats as I do, I have no idea how something is going to resonate when I’m producing it. I just don’t. And that’s okay.”
Gibson, a professor at Bard College, purchased the schoolhouse back in 2016. A team of roughly a dozen assistants are stationed throughout the building, each working on different projects dreamed up by the artist. They talk about Gibson less like a boss and more like a father figure—or maybe a fun uncle. And there’s plenty to keep them busy.