Contemporary Native Ceramics at the Hood Museum

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The Hood Museum of Art Brings Contemporary Native Ceramics to Dartmouth’s Campus

Courtney Leonard

Courtney Leonard (Shinnecock), “BREACH: Logbook 20 | NEBULOUS,” study at her studio in Santa Fe, 2019. Photo: Courtney Leonard.

Hanover, NH—Form and Relation: Contemporary Native Ceramics examines the work of six artists whose practices are grounded in our relations to the land and to one another. All were chosen because of the complexity of their themes—such as community, identity, gender, land, extraction, language, and responsibility—and techniques. Anita Fields (Osage/Muscogee), Courtney M. Leonard (Shinnecock), Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara/Lakota), Ruben Olguin (Mestizo), Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara descent), and Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Tewa) are leading conversations not only within the field of Native American ceramics but also within contemporary ceramics and art more broadly.

Form and Relation runs from March 14 to August 9, 2020, with selected commissions on view until December 6, and it is accompanied by a fully illustrated 104-page catalogue published by the Hood Museum of Art and distributed by the University of Washington Press. This is made possible, in part, through the Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative, funded by the Walton Family Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

“This vital exhibition upends expectations and delights in the lush, varied, and complicated world of contemporary Native ceramics,” says John Stomberg, the Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director of the Hood Museum of Art.

Anita Fields (Osage/Muscogee), “So Many Ways to Be Human,” 2019, ceramic, slips, gold luster glaze, silk. Photo: Tom Fields (Cherokee Nation/Muscogee).

“Clay embodies the indivisibility of our existence to the land,” says exhibition co-curator Jami Powell (Osage), Hood Museum associate curator of Native American art. “Nearly all of us have experienced what it feels like to create forms with clay, to manipulate the flesh of the earth. Through this practice, this action, we are subliminally reminded of our inherent connection to place and our relationships to one another. This is the power of clay.”

The works created by these artists disrupt popular understandings of what constitutes Native American ceramics and insist upon active engagement. In today’s world, many people have grown accustomed to forming immediate, passive reactions to things—to reflexively clicking “like” or simply scrolling past images on our social media accounts. The works created by these artists, however, interfere with our ability to instantly like or dislike them. The questions these artists grapple with are relevant to both Native communities and non-Native communities across the globe. How can we shift our understanding of the land from one of ownership and extraction to one of relationality? How do we move toward a recognition of our shared humanity? How do we create a world in which future generations can thrive?

Using the land or clay as a central organizing medium, the artists in Form and Relation draw not only on the materiality of the clay but also on the knowledge embedded within it. Here, the six artists in this exhibition bring us into a dialogue—a dialogue in which Indigenous voices and ways of knowing are privileged.

Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara/Lakota), installation shot of “(Be)Longing,” ceramic, steel, ribbon, fiber, video in Nambe, NM. Photo: Kate Russell

Complementing the spring and summer presentation of Form and Relation is the companion exhibition Unbroken: Native American Ceramics, Sculpture, and Design, on view April 4 to December 6, 2020. Curated by Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative interns in Native American art Dillen Peace (Diné), Class of 2019, and Hailee Brown (Diné), Class of 2020, this exhibition draws from the Hood Museum’s permanent collections and creates a dialogue between historical, modern, and contemporary works. Unbroken explores themes of continuity, innovation, and Indigenous knowledges across time, and calls attention to the stylistic decisions made by artists and makers. This exhibition is organized by the Hood Museum of Art and generously supported by Hugh J. Freund, Dartmouth Class of 1967.

“The Hood Museum’s ceramics exhibitions this spring honor both the long history and the vital present of Native American art,” the museum director, John Stomberg, notes. “These exhibitions open new doors to historical inquiry and contemporary practice in an ancient medium enjoying renewed vitality.”

Roxanne Swentzell

Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo), “Tattooed Woman,” 1989, original clay, collection of the Hood Museum of Art, 2019.4. Photo: Brian Wagner.

The spring exhibition opening reception at the Hood Museum, which features both Native ceramics shows, is on April 25, and other related programming includes Something to Hold Onto, the second project in Cannupa Hanska Luger’s Counting Coup series, which aims to utilize social collaboration to rehumanize large and abstract data through the process of creating handmade objects. For details on this opportunity and all of the spring programs and events at the Hood Museum, visit our website.  –Alison Palizzolo, Hood Museum of Art


Form and Relation: Contemporary Native Ceramics
March 14–August 9, 2020 | link
Co-curated by Jami C. Powell (Osage) and Morgan E. Freeman (Nipmuk)

Unbroken: Native American Ceramics, Sculpture, and Design
April 4–December 6, 2020
Co-curated by Dillen Peace (Diné) and Hailee Brown (Diné),

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College
6 E. Wheelock Street, Hanover, NH 03755
(603) 646-2808 | hood.museum@dartmouth.edu

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