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Top Ten Native Art Events of 2015


First American Art Magazine‘s Top 10 Native Art Events of 2015

The year 2015 marked a stellar one for Indigenous arts of the Americas. We could have easily doubled this list with so many strong, major exhibits and new art venues breaking ground. Here are the Top 10 Native Art Events, as selected by First American Art Magazine‘s advisors and writers.

1. Walter Soboleff Building, Sealaska Heritage Institute

Named for the late Tlingit scholar, Indigenous rights activist, and Presbyterian minister, the Walter Soboleff Building opened in downtown Juneau, Alaska, on May 15th. Built by the nonprofit Sealaska Heritage Institute, the building serves as research and cultural center for Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples. Ironically, construction was temporarily halted because Sealaska did not want their building to conform to Victorian standards prescribed by the downtown’s historic district. Rather, the center is constructed from yellow cedar, used in the regional architecture centuries before Western people arrived. The exterior and interior feature monumental artworks by master artists, and the collections include ancient, historic, and contemporary artworks including the permanent exhibit, Enter the World of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Peoples. | link

2015 Highlights @ SHI! from Kathy Dye on Vimeo.

2. Jim and Lauris Phillips Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian

The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, New Mexico, opened its new Jim and Lauris Phillips Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry on June 6th to its members and on June 7th to the public. The center features a permanent exhibition of Southwestern jewelry but also provides facilities for scholars researching the Wheelwright’s copious collections and archives, which include American anthropologist John Adair’s papers. The two-story center with almost 7,000 square feet is the largest expansion to the main museum building in its 78-year history. Thirty-two cases display a chronological and encyclopedic range of Southwestern Native jewelry and related materials, such as silver horse tack. | link

Wheelwright Museum

Jewelry from the Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry, courtesy of the Wheelwright Museum

3. Enter the Matrix: Indigenous Printmakers, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

As a medium, printmaking is finally being recognized in Native art circles. Enter the Matrix showcases a broad range of printmaking techniques from Indigenous artists throughout the United States, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand. Curator heather ahtone (Chickasaw-Choctaw) drew from the permanent collections Fred Jones Museum, Crow’s Shadow Institute, and the Nation Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, as well as private collections for this ambitious survey, Beginning with the June 4th opening, the exhibit was accompanied by substantial programming, including lectures, demonstrations, panel discussions, and an entire course about Indigenous printmaking through iTunes U. | link

Joe Feddersen - Native Art

Joe Feddersen (Okanagan-Sinixt), “Wyit View,” 2003, lithograph, Crow’s Shadow.

4. Museo de Arte Indígena Contemporáneo (MAIC) Opens in Cuernavaca

Although the Museum de Art Indígena Contemporáneo (MAIC) has curated international traveling exhibits for years, as of July 13th, the museum has a permanent location on the campus of the Autonomous University of Morelos in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. Wilfrido García Avila is the new director of the museum, which features an auditorium for independent film screening and offers diverse art workshops, from jewelry making and bookbinding to making amatl paper. The museum’s building dates back to the 16th century but was recently remodeled with rooftop solar panels and a water collection and reuse system for sustainability. | link

5. Woven Together: Celebrating Spider Woman in Contemporary Native American Art, Yekaterinburg, Orenburg, and Surgut, Russia

This 11-artist exhibit, curated by Suzanne Newman Fricke, PhD, traveled to three Russian museums: Regional Studies Museum in Yekaterinburg in July, Orenburg Museum in August, and the Surgut Museum of Region Studies in September. While Woven Together included textile art, notably a button blanket sewn by Clarissa Rizal (Tlingit) and designed by Preston Singletary (Tlingit), the exhibit primarily showcased two-dimensional contemporary art by ten Native artists from diverse regions of United States. The American Consulate promoted this show “to encourage contact between Russians and Americans and to promote interest in the diverse people that inhabit the U.S.,” as Rizal writes. | link

"Woven Together" Native art brochures

“Woven Together” brochures featuring artwork by Sheridan MacKnight (Lakota-Ojibwe)

6. No Caminho da Miçanga: Um Mundo que se Faz de Contas, Museu do Índio—FUNAI

Opening on August 19th in the government-run Museum of the Indian in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, No Caminho da Miçanga: Um Mundo que se Faz de Contas (On the Path of Beads: A World to Take into Account) featured beadwork from Africa, Asia, and the Americas, including work by 24 different Brazilian tribes. Museum director José Levinho said the 4,000 individual beaded artworks in the show collectively held six tons of beads. Five years in the planning, the show was supported by UNESCO and Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. The works were organized by seven themes: Travel, Myth, Encounter, Brightness, Ritual, Charm, and Diving. | link

19/08/2015 - Exposição 'No Caminho da Miçanga, um mundo que se faz de contas"

7. Return from Exile: Contemporary Southeastern Indian Art, Lyndon House

The Southeastern Indian Artist Association (SEIAA) was organized to promote art by Southeastern Woodlands tribe and their most ambitious project yet is this two-year traveling exhibit, curated by Tony A. Tiger (Muscogee-Seminole-Sac & Fox), Bobby C. Martin (Muscogee Creek), and Jace Weaver (Cherokee descent), and catalogue. The show opened August 22nd in the spacious Lyndon House Art Center in Athens, Georgia, returning the art of removed tribes back to the ancestral home of the Yuchi, Muscogee Creek, Cherokee, and other Southeastern tribes. Continuing to Florida, Arkansas, and several locations in Oklahoma, this art show demonstrates cultural survival while renewing relationships between Southeastern communities, remaining tribes, and diaspora. | link | RFE YouTube Channel

8. Postcommodity’s Repellent Fence/Valla Repelente, Douglas, Arizona, and Agua Prieta, Sonora

Repellant Fence is a temporary installation of 26 ten-foot-wide, helium balloons inspired by “scare-eye” bird-repellant balloons. The caution-yellow, PVC sphreres with watchful black-and-red “eyes” floated 50 feet about the Mexican–United States border from October 8th to 12th. They parodied the anti-immigrant rhetoric of US politics and acted, as the collective shares on their website, “as a suture that stitches the peoples of the Americas together.” The New Mexico-based art collective includes Raven Chacon (Navajo), Cristóbal Martinez (Chicano), Kade Twist (Cherokee Nation), and longtime member Nathan Young (Pawnee/Delaware/Kiowa/Cherokee), who has since left the collective. | link

9. Native Fashion Now, Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, Massachusetts, launched the “first large-scale traveling exhibition contemporary Native American fashion,” simply titled Native Fashion Now on November 21st. This exhibit, curated by Karen Kramer Russell, features almost a hundred works by 34 artists spanning over 50 years of Native fashion and featuring clothing, jewelry, shoes, parasols, and many other unique accessories. Show-stopping beadwork, weaving and couture ensembles include work by Jamie Okuma (Luiseño-Shoshone-Bannock), Bethany Yellowtail (Crow-Northern Arapaho), Orlando Dugi (Navajo), Lisa Telford (Haida), and many other stellar artists from Canada and the United States. The show will travel the Portland Art Museum, Philbrook Museum of Art, and NMAI George Gustav Heye Center. | link

10. Acting Out: A Symposium on Indigenous Performance Art

On December 3rd and 4th, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Institute of American Indian Arts, New Mexico Museum of Art, and Museum of Indian Arts and Culture collaborated to host the first gathering of Indigenous performance artists. The symposium included workshops, panel discussions, and video screenings and culminated in a performance at the Lensic Performing Arts Center by Rebecca Belmore (Ojibwe), James Luna (Luiseño), Sheila Tishia Skinner, and Guillermo Gómez-Peña (Chicano). Lori Blondeau (Cree-Saulteaux), Merritt Johnson (Mohawk-Blackfoot), Peter Morin (Tahltan), and Adrian Stimson (Siksika) were some of the luminaries that participated in this historic gathering of performance artists, who often work in relative isolation compared to artists in other genres. | link

Acting Out - Native art

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