Sydney Pursel, a Columbia-based multimedia artist, will be living in a Wyoming town of 25 people for the month of March, and she's ecstatic.
Pursel, who graduated from MU and earned a master's degree at the University of Kansas, is the first recipient of the Ucross Fellowship for Native American Visual Artists, which was created in 2017. She will reside in Ucross, Wyoming, for the month of March and will receive a stipend of $1,000 and a further exhibition at the Ucross Foundation Art Gallery.
Pursel said she will be creating several typical Native American garments made with an unconventional material: beer bottle caps. This is to reflect stereotypes and what she described as a drinking problem among Native American and Irish people. These two cultures are familiar to Pursel, since her mother was born an Irish Catholic and her father an American Indian.
"What we choose to put on our bodies is a huge part of our culture," she said.
Through her art, she seeks to convey the diversity of the Native American spectrum and the identity issues she has faced due to her heritage.
"My main goal is to teach people that there are different types of American Indians," Pursel said.
Pursel said she applied for the fellowship not only following the recommendations of two of her master's professors at the University of Kansas, but also because she "needed time and resources," she said.
She intends to wear the costumes in a participatory performance, where people will interact with her, as the work of art.
Pursel said she believes people understand these type of art forms more than painting hanging on walls.
"People pay more attention when they participate," Pursel said.
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