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Kay WalkingStick’s paintings and drawings refuse a modern conception of difference anchored in racial biology, which has framed debates about modernist primitivism since the nineteenth century. Her encounters with worldly Renaissance collections prompt consideration of similitude as an alternative relational model. For roughly the first century of conquest, Europeans enveloped Native Americans, plants, and animals into a global family of resemblances, rather than positing their essential differences. Indigenous artists likewise bent likeness to the ends of survival. In sketchbooks made during repeated trips to Rome between 1999 and 2012, WalkingStick drew classical fauns, Christ’s transfiguration, and Aztec codices from Italian collections into sensuous, loving proximity. She then invited figures repurposed from her sketchbooks to dance across the scuffed surfaces of works on paper. The androgynous, racially indeterminate legs of WalkingStick’s dancers, entwined in vines borrowed from Etruscan mosaics, claim a vast network of creative kin.

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