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The Opposite of Snake: Surrealism and the Art of Jimmie Durham

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Twenty years ago, Cherokee artist Jimmie Durham described idea of “opposites” from a child’s point of view. For him, the normative take on opposites is laughably irrelevant to his childhood

Twenty years ago, Cherokee artist Jimmie Durham described idea of “opposites” from a child’s point of view. For him, the normative take on opposites is laughably irrelevant to his childhood self, who conceived of “birds as the opposite of snakes.” His witty anecdote moves the terms of understanding away from conventional opposition, by stepping outside mainstream assumptions. Without opposites, for example, iconic images may be more fluid and simultaneous, dream-like and less fixed to singular pre-determined interpretation. So, too, the prose poems of Lautréamont and the visual and literary works of the Surrealist avant –garde employed startling juxtapositions that defied rational understanding and challenged conventional assumptions. “Outsider” status was preferable to “insider” here thanks to the power of idiosyncratic symbols and the appeal to a richer hermeneutic. Durham’s “search for virginity” in terms that reject the notion that authenticity and dishonesty are polar oppositions reprises the artistic practice of many Surrealists.

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  • 2013

The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 7 No. 1 (2013)

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The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 7 No. 1 (2013) - Table of Contents

“Introduction to the Issue and Special Section on Native American Surrealisms” by Claudia Mesch, p.

The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 7 No. 1 (2013) - Table of Contents

“Introduction to the Issue and Special Section on Native American Surrealisms” by Claudia Mesch, p. i-iv. 

“George Morrison’s Surrealism” by W. Jackson Rushing III, p. 1-18. 

“César Moro’s Transnational Surrealism” by Michele Greet, p. 19-51. 

“A Modernist Moment: Native Art and Surrealism at the University of Oklahoma” by Mark A. White, p. 52-70.

“The Opposite of Snake: Surrealism and the Art of Jimmie Durham” by Mary Modeen, p. 71-95. 

“‘My World is Surreal,’ or ‘The Northwest Coast’ is Surreal” by Charlotte Townsend-Gault, p. 96-107. 

“Complexity and Contradiction in Native American Surrealism” by Robert Silberman, p. 108-130. 

“Review of ‘Double Solitaire: The Surreal Worlds of Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy’ & Kay Sage, ‘The Biographical Chronology and Four Surrealist One Act Plays’” by Larry List, p. 131-134.

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  • 2013