Frank S. Matsura: Portraits from the Borderland
April 29-November 26, 2023
Frank Sakae Matsura (1873-1913), came to the U.S. from Japan about 1901, settling briefly in Seattle before making newly-incorporated Okanogan County his home. Matsura became a popular member of the community, working in commercial photography as well as portraiture. His body of work includes some of the most visually powerful and nuanced images of Indigenous people from the era: conceptually sophisticated and collaborative portraits of individuals and families with whom Matsura maintained trusting relationships.
Portraits from the Borderland are photographs that reveal Syilx (Okanogan) tribal communities effectively adapting to a changing time--a message distinct from many of Matsura's colleagues, whose photography reinforced erroneous beliefs that Indigenous peoples would soon disappear. Enlivening Matsura's photographs in this exhibition are cultural objects from the MAC's premier American Indian Collection, which show examples of many of the meaningful items featured in Matsura's portraiture.
This exhibition explores how Matsura's artistic legacy challenges colonial stereotypes, unsettles power dynamics in image-making, and fills important gaps in art history and regional narratives. Matsura died of tuberculosis at the age of 32, but he left an important body of work that helps us today to interpret and understand the past.
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