Cold Water Springs in Minneapolis

color photo on canvas, diptych, sections are
20 inches by 30 inches each


Ogema, MN – White Earth Reservation

Although both of my grandmothers were Dakota, it wasn’t until I moved to Minnesota as an adult that I began to learn about my Dakota heritage. As I discovered more about what happened to the Dakota, I began to feel a deep sense of loss and displacement to the land that was home to my ancestors.

I began to explore ways to express the feelings I had about the land in my art. My intent was not to make a literal documentation of the each place. The goal was to create images that conveyed my thoughts and feelings as I visited each site. To help achieve that goal I used a Holga 120 film camera. With a plastic lens and body, the camera tends to distort the image and is prone to light leaks. I also combined multiple overlapping exposures in camera to create panoramic images. The imperfections and aberrations imparted to the images reflect the sense of dislocation and loss I felt as I learned more about my Dakota heritage. The photos are a way for me to reconnect to the land and to gain a deeper understanding of what happened to my ancestors.

Joseph J. Allen has been exhibiting his art for over 20 years. He was born in Eagle Butte, South Dakota and is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe. Joseph is a 2012 Artist in Business Leadership Fellow with the First Peoples Fund and a 1993 McKnight Photography Fellow. His photographs are in the collections of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum and the Minnesota Historical Society. Joseph lives on the White Earth Ojibwe Reservation in Northern Minnesota with his wife and two daughters on ten acres of land in rural Ogema.