Ksenya Gurshtein brings the conversation of Native American identity to Curator Talk


Jacinda Hall

Ulrich Museum of Art Curator, Ksenya Gurshtien, speaks to attendees about the ‘Myths of the West’ Fall exhibition at Curator Talk on Sept. 20.

For many Native Americans, miswritten history is nothing new. An instance of casual racism in Kansas’s state song was one of the inspirations for Ksenya Gurshtein, Ulrich Museum of Art curator, when curating this year’s fall exhibition, ‘Myths of the West.’ Gurshtein talked about the process of putting together this collection at Tuesday’s Curator Talk.

Gurshtein found that there were hidden lyrics in the state song ‘Home on the Range’ that were prejudiced towards Native Americans.

“We were new here, and one day I wanted to play the state song for my kids,” Gurshtein said. “As I was listening… one of the verses was ‘The red man was pressed from this part of the west, he’s likely no more to return to the banks of red river’ and this got me thinking, ‘this is my state song and there was this like casual racism and erasure of history.’”

During her talk, Gurshtein talked about a piece of artwork by Sydney Pursel that touches on the issue of cultural appropriation.

“Sydney’s work is really great,” Gurshtein said. “I think it speaks to cultural appropriation and the way that images of names of Native Americans get taken all the time.”

Some of Gurshtein’s inspiration for ‘Myths of the West’ came from the Wichita Art Museum.

“These works got me thinking about ‘how do we show history as it’s given to us? How do we tell it differently? … How do we connect to that history’s group of individuals?’” Gurshtein said. “Blackbear Bosin seemed like such a remarkable figure, that was certainly a revelation to me because he was an outsider… he lived here (Wichita, Kansas) or created really wonderful work here.”

With this exhibition, Gurshtein wanted to bring different works from across the city of Wichita and create an intricate and lasting resource for students and faculty alike.