Dr. Kristin Dowell joined the Department of Art History in the fall of 2018. Professor Dowell specializes in art of Native North America with an emphasis on Indigenous cinema and contemporary visual culture. At the core of her research is an engagement with the politics and poetics of indigeneity as it is articulated through the lens of Native media and art production. For sixteen years she has engaged in collaborative community-based research with Indigenous filmmakers and artists in Vancouver, Canada. Her single-author book, Sovereign Screens: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast (2013), is the first ethnographic monograph of the vibrant and dynamic Indigenous media world in Vancouver. Her research investigates the active processes through which Indigenous filmmakers and artists visualize Indigenous stories, cultural knowledge, and aesthetic traditions. She focuses on their use of experimental forms of art and media in their efforts to express and enact visual sovereignty through their on-screen aesthetics and off-screen production practices.
Dowell’s research also encompasses material and visual culture, museum studies and cultural heritage documentation. She has worked with or held research affiliations with a variety of museums including the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Film curation is an integral aspect of her research practice and she has worked for several Native film festivals including those sponsored by NMAI and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. She was a co-founder and co-organizer of Native Crossroads Film Festival and Symposium at the University of Oklahoma where she served as a film curator for three years.
Professor Dowell directs the Visual Culture Media Lab—an interactive technology space providing undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to learn media production skills through the creation of their own digital projects documenting cultural heritage and visual culture. Student films produced for her ethnographic video production course can be viewed here. She teaches courses on Contemporary Native American Art, Global Indigenous Cinema, Cultural Heritage: Theory and Practice, Art of Native North America, Gender in Art History, and Museum Object. Her courses are part of the Department of Art History’s Visual Cultures of the Americas and Museum & Cultural Heritage Studies programs.
She is currently working on a research project that explores the inventive digital media practices of Indigenous women artists and filmmakers in Canada, analyzing how they re-define film genres, such as stop-motion animation and experimental documentary, to recuperate Indigenous family histories, ancestral knowledge and cultural memory. One goal of this project is to bring greater recognition for the long-standing and central role of women within Indigenous media production in Canada, a distinctive feature in contrast to male-dominated media worlds elsewhere.
“Digital Sutures: Experimental Stop-Motion Animation as Future Horizon of Indigenous Cinema.” Cultural Anthropology 33: 2 (May, 2018): 189-201.
“Residential Schools and ‘Reconciliation’ in the Media Art of Skeena Reece and Lisa Jackson.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 29: 1 (2017): 116-138.
“Four Faces of the Moon: Spirit and Memory: Resistance and Resilience.” Exhibition catalogue essay for Four Faces of the Moon: Amanda Strong. Grunt Gallery, 2017.
“Experimental Digital Media on the Cutting Edge.” In Art in Motion: Native American Explorations of Time, Place and Thought. Eds. John Lukavic and Laura Caruso. Denver: Denver Art Museum Press, 2016.
“‘The Future Looks Rad From Where I Stand’: A Review of Claiming Space: Urban Aboriginal Youth Voices at the UBC Museum of Anthropology.” Anthropologica 57:1 (2015): 239-246.
Sovereign Screens: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast. University of Nebraska Press, 2013.
“Pushing Boundaries, Defying Categories: Aboriginal Filmmaking on Canada’s West Coast” in Native Art on the Northwest Coast: A History of Changing Ideas. Eds. Jennifer Kramer, Charlotte Townsend-Gault and Ki-ke-in. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2013. Book was winner of 2015 Canada Prize in Humanities.
“Performance and ‘Trickster Aesthetics’ in the Work of Mohawk Filmmaker Shelley Niro” in Native American Performance and Representation. Ed. Steve Wilmer. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2009.
“Performing Culture: Beauty, Cultural Knowledge, and Womanhood in Miss Navajo.” Transformations 20: 1 (2009): 132-141.
“Indigenous Media Gone Global: Strengthening Identity On- and Offscreen at the First Nations\First Features Film Showcase.” American Anthropologist 108: 2 (2006):376-384.