By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Jan 08, 2008 at 5:12 AM

It's something that was probably overlooked by most people for decades. The Wisconsin Dells, one of the state's largest and most popular tourist attractions, is rich with Native American -- specifically Ho Chunk Nation of Wisconsin -- history, as the areas was and still is the homeland of this tribe.

Yet, a closer examination of the thousands of Native American images, symbols and references found in the Dells' architecture and advertising reveals an abundance of pueblos from the southwest, teepees and drawings from the Plains and totem poles from the northwest. As photographer and member of the Ho Chink Nation Tom Jones has illustrated with his work, there are next to no symbols used from the culture that inhabited this land.

Jones' series "'Native' Commodity" documents the contemporary life of his tribe and its relationship to the dominant white culture in the 21st century, and is one of the installations in the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design's "This Land is My Land," opening Friday, Jan. 18 and running through Saturday, March 22.

Curated by MIAD Foundations (first-year) Faculty member Cedar Marie, the exhibit brings together seven diverse artists to explore divergent cultures with respect for the perspectives and values generated within their boundaries and for the collisions and shifts that occur beyond "mainstream" American culture.

"The artists," said Marie, "communicate across cultural and social divides through works that are largely media-driven. They address issues ranging from personal identity to racial, gender and sexual stereotypes, landscape and land usage and cultural self-images projected on and within the body. The results are intimate expressions of human experience extending beyond the definitions of self, home and being in a foreign land within a dominant culture."

Along with Jones's contribution, the show's works include photography by Bill Basquin, an award-winning filmmaker who focuses on the relationships of humanity, agriculture, nature and the urban environment in his series of still photographs, "Soiled," and Jenny Price, who documents contemporary sex-worker culture and examines the complexities of human nature, desires and sexual identities often concealed in our society.

Video artist Adam Davis explores definitions of homosexuality in "PAL," and explores issues of masculinity and sexuality in the Deep South in "Take Out Your Hammers and Loosen Their Belts." Madison's Douglas Rosenberg is an Emmy-nominated director, performance and video artists who address identity, trauma, war, literature and the boundaries of art and mediated performance.

Working in video, experimental photography and GPS technologies, Paula Levine reveals cultural attitudes about "foreign" and "domestic," and Sheboygan installation artist Amy Chaloupka uses maps "to activate the small topographies of life that are often overlooked in her site-specific piece, "Vanishing Point." 

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”