What is it?
Tom Jones (b. 1964)
Archival digital print
40 x 40 in.
Purchased 2014, The Art Ball Fund
About the Work
Tom Jones takes his identity in the Ho-Chunk tribe as fundamental to his person and his work. In his photography work, he explores this identity and geographic place with a specific focus on the experience of American Indian communities. He is particularly interested in the ways in which Native material culture has been popularized, represented, and misrepresented.
Fire Pit is from Jones’s series “I am an Indian First and an Artist Second,” inspired by the ongoing “post-Indian” controversy among Native Americans revolving around claiming or disclaiming—even denying—Indian ancestry.
Fire Pit is a deceptively simple image: a colorful “target” of abstract shapes with a center “bull’s eye.” Visually immediate in its reductive appeal, it is a deeply layered, metaphorical design that evokes a range of reflections on ideas integral to Native American identity. The circle of shapes suggests footprints—traces of ancestors, of community, even of dance and storytelling around a fire. Ghostly shadows flicker among the steps, reminders of connectedness across time. What presents itself as abstraction turns out to be the elements of deep, rich narrative.