I want to Bee Mice Elf, 1985-2006
Bone, wood, metal, mirror, paint, seashell
39 x 23.5 x 20 inches
Collection of Peter, Annie, and Connor Remes
Issues of Native American identity and authenticity are central to Jimmie Durham's work. In I want to Bee Mice Elf, he has incorporated several items typically associated with Native American art—an animal skull, a tree branch, and a seashell. But the resulting totem-like structure is hardly traditional. The side-mirror and reflectors are bits of modern refuse that situate the work firmly in the present. The placard nailed to the sculpture informs us that Durham rejects stereotypes about Native Americans; he will be himself. Despite addressing ideas relevant to his heritage, Durham refuses the category "Indian artist." He asserts, "I am Cherokee but my work is simply contemporary art, and for me it is vital that my work be seen as contemporary art without any qualifiers or labels."