“Native Fiber” celebrates innovations in contemporary textile art in the Great Lakes

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By Karen Ann Hoffman (Oneida Nation)

Karen Hoffman Flame Urn

Karen Ann Hoffman (Oneida Nation), “Flame Urn,” 2017, velvet, glass beads, felt.

Created by the union available materials and cultural understanding, Native art has long made public statements of beauty, struggle, environment, and resilience. Native Fiber on exhibition at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts (WMQFA) in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, through April 28, 2019, is stunning example fine Native art executed in a wide variety of fiberwork.

In 2017, while part of the group show, In Death, I approached the WMQFA about hosting their first ever all Native fiber exhibition. Director Melissa Wraalstad responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!,” and in 2018, I began contacting artists from across the Great Lakes watershed.

In-house curator Emily Schlemowitz and I took an inclusive definition of fiber for Native Fiber. Cloth, yes, but also cordage, wood, leather, fur, twining, corn husks, quillwork, and more. Native Fiber includes work from 31 artists and one art guild. Native Fiber’s mission is to showcase the astonishing ways Native People work with these extraordinary materials.

By late 2019, work began flowing into Native Fiber from the shores of Lake Superior to the Saint Lawrence Seaway. About two-thirds of the 60 pieces in Native Fiber were made specifically for the exhibition. Visitors to the exhibition will experience black ash basketry, dolls, beadwork, blankets, sculptural upholstery, and more, all displayed with a jeweler’s eye.

The artists featured in the exhibition include:

  • Lily Antone-Plass (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin)
  • Sarah Berthelet-Villa (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin)
  • Shirley Brauker (Little River Band of Ottawa)
  • Kelly Church (Ottawa/Potawatomi)
  • Wilma Cook (Mohawk)
  • Debra Fabian (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin)
  • Karen Elise Goulet (White Earth Ojibwe)
  • Martha Gradolf (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska)
  • Carla Hemlock (Kanien’kehaka Mohawk)
  • Karen Ann Hoffman (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin)
  • Terri Hom (Lac Courte Oreilles)
  • Samantha Jacobs (Seneca)
  • Holly John (Seneca)
  • Penny Kagigebi (White Earth Ojibwe)
  • Rick Kagigebi (Lac Courte Oreilles)
  • James Kelly (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin)
  • Pat Kruse (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa)
  • Julia Marden (Aquinnah Wampanoag)
  • Linda Lou Metoxen (Diné), living in Wisconsin
  • Penny Minner (Seneca)
  • Native Roots Artists Guild (Iroquois)
  • Salisha Ninham (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin)
  • Melanie Tallmadge-Sainz (Ho-Chunk)
  • Scott Shoemaker (Myaamia)
  • Stefanie Sikorowski (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin/Chickasaw Nation)
  • Talon Silverhorn (Eastern Shawnee/Kiowa)
  • Christopher Sweet (Ho-Chunk)
  • Chholing Taha (Cree)
  • Jeremy D. Turner (Shawnee Tribe)
  • Shannon Marie Turner (Diné)
  • Michelle D. Watson (Diné)
  • Jason Wesaw (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi).

This exhibition is supported by grants from the Maihaugen Foundation and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

As an artist and curator, my goal has been to share the work of fellow Native artists with audiences yet unaware of their talents. I look for quality venues whose audiences are well versed in appreciating fine art but are unexposed to contemporary Native artwork.

The Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts (WMQFA) in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, is just such a place. Established in 1988, the WMQFA is dedicated to educating the public about the artistic, cultural, historic, and social importance of quilts and fiber arts. Their repurposed 1850s farmstead has been reconfigured into a gallery, educational space, and gift shop along with a state-of-the-art conservation facility.

The gallery has shown fiber exhibitions with themes ranging from In Death to a Tribute to Prince and Fiber Arts in the Digital Age, and now… Native Fiber.

Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts
N50 W5050 Portland Road
Cedarburg, WI | map
(269) 546-0300

On view through April 28, 2019.
For further information, please wiquiltmuseum.com/current-exhibits.

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