First American Art Magazine‘s
Top 10 Native Art Events of 2018
As we eagerly anticipate what exhibitions, artworks, gatherings, and new discoveries and projects await us in 2019, it’s good to reflect back on the impressive accomplishments in the Native art world in 2018. Last year was not without its tragedies, such as the loss by the fire of the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro and, with it, the loss of irreplaceable cultural artworks and linguistic resources. The 2018 general elections in Brazil signal dire warnings for the Indigenous peoples of Brazil and reminds us of the importance of advocating on behalf of our Indigenous brethren across national borderlines. Art provides us a means to do this. Despite these setbacks, 2018 showed a growing influence of Indigenous arts in mainstream spheres and gave us many reasons to celebrate.
1. Every One, art project by Cannupa Hanska Luger
Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara-Lakota) first initiated the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Queer, and Trans People (MMIWQT) BEAD PROJECT, in which people from hundreds of communities in Canada and the United States sculpted 4,000 two-inch-wide clay beads to honor the memories of those Indigenous people lost. Luger fired the beads, stained them with ink, and then strung into Every One, a monumental, twelve-by-twelve-foot portrait, based on Sister, a hauntingly beautiful photograph by Kali Spitzer (Kaska Dena). The work has been installed in Colorado Springs, Santa Fe, and New York. By calling attention to the staggering numbers, hopefully, awareness will result in a demand for the United States to take action to protect these vulnerable populations, as is beginning to happen in Canada.
Editor’s note: I had accidentally listed Cannupa Hanska Luger’s installation Every One as being installed in the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. It was actually installed in the Museum of International Folk Art. Thousands of the clay beads were sculpted at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. —AM
2. T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America
This traveling exhibition introduces new generations to T.C. Cannon (Kiowa/Caddo, 1946–1978). Peabody Essex Museum curator Karen Kramer took the unique approach of integrating his musical and poetic practices with his visual arts. Working closely with Cannon’s sister Joyce Cannon Yi, Kramer was able to share rare recordings of Cannon singing and playing guitar and the show even includes his personal guitar. At the Edge of America uses his love of music (folk, rock, country, and blues of the 1960s and 1970s) and Cannon’s service in the Vietnam War to situate him firmly in the currents of his times in ways that mainstream art audiences can immediately grasp. Cannon deserves to be recognized as a leading artist of his era, and this exhibition—traveling from Peabody Essex in Salem, Massachusetts; the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and ultimately the National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center in New York—and its accompanying catalogue will help win over audiences to his powerfully sincere and timeless oeuvre.
T. C. Cannon (Kiowa/Caddo, 1946–1978), “Epochs in Plains History: Mother Earth, Father Sun, the Children Themselves,” 1976–77, oil on canvas, 96 × 264 inches, collect of the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, Seattle, Washington (© 2017 Estate of T.C. Cannon).
T. C. Cannon: At the Edge of America, Peabody Essex Museum
3. Kenojuak Cultural Centre And Print Shop
In September 2018, the much-anticipated Kenojuak Cultural Center and Print Shop officially opened to the public in Kinngait (Cape Dorset). Named for the beloved 20th-century printmaker and textile artist from the community, the center was created through a partnership between the municipality of Cape Dorset and the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. The 10,440-square-foot center provides a community gathering space, exhibition galleries, shipping dock, archives, offices, studios, visitor center, and retail outlet, and a fully-equipped print shop.
4. níchiwamiskwém | nimidet | ma soeur | my sister, BACA
The fourth edition of the Contemporary Native Art Biennial/La Biennale d’art contemporain autochtone (BACA) can be characterized by radical inclusion. The theme and curators were selected through an open submission process, allowing Niki Little (Oji-Cree) and Becca Taylor (Cree) to expand this event beyond its home base at Art Mûr to other venues throughout Montreal. The curatorial team then expanded the definition of “art” to draw in new audiences—beading circles, tattooing, singing, film—a range of strategies to promote gathering as artistic experience.
5. Shan Goshorn: Resisting the Mission
Our community is still reeling from the loss of Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee), but despite her declining health in her struggle with cancer, she was able to curate and attend Resisting the Mission, a solo exhibition of Goshorn’s paper baskets woven from historic photographs and archival materials that addressed the painful legacy of Indian boarding schools that began with the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Founded to forcibly assimilate Native American children into mainstream society—”kill the Indian, save the man”—Carlisle marked its centennial anniversary in 2018, coinciding with this exhibition at the Trout Gallery at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. For those that missed the exhibition, a catalogue is available.
Shan Goshorn: Resisting the Mission, Trout Gallery
6. Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental
Rebecca Belmore (Lac Seul Ojibwe) is one of the most influential Indigenous artists of our era. Her work is fierce and fearless in the face of colonial powers and institutions of oppression. This retrospective—the largest yet—curated by Wanda Nanibush (Beausoleil Ojibwe), at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto ran from July 12 to October 12 and spans three decades of Belmore’s artistic practice. From installations to sculpture to video, the survey features now-iconic works such as Fountain, the installation Belmore created when she represented Canada in the 2005 Venice Biennale, and Biinjiya’iing Onji (From Inside), the transitory migrant’s fabric tent immortalized in marble for documenta 14 in 2017—fitting monuments for our era.
Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental, Art Gallery of Ontario
7. Bienal Intercontinental de Arte Indígena international expansion
The oldest and longest-continuing Indigenous biannual art fair, Bienal Intercontinental de Arte Indígena, Ancestral, o Milenario (Intercontinental Biennial of Indigenous Ancestral, or Millennial Art; BIAI), has been based in Quito, Ecuador, since 2006. This year organizers hosted their seventh edition of the fair with concurrent events in Ica and Lima, Peru, as well as Ecuador and launched auxiliary events in the United States at the Michilimackinac Historical Society, Mackinac Island, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois. While firmly grounded in the Americas, BIAI has a global perspective of indigeneity and includes Native artists from locales such as Norway and Egypt. The biennial showcases not just visual artists but also Indigenous music, performance, literature, Indigenous foods, technology, and scientific research.
8. aabaakwad (it clears after a storm)
This September, a two-and-half-day gathering took place at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Pauline Shirt (Cree) blessed the gathering, and the staff of AGO welcomed the group of assembled Indigenous curators and artists from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada to the two-and-a-half-day discussion. Keynote speakers included Rebecca Belmore (Lac Seul Ojibwe), Wanda Nanibush (Beausoleil Ojibwe), and Jolene Rickard (Tuscarora). The stated goal of this unprecedented gathering is to shift “the current global interest in Indigenous arts to be one that is Indigenous-led.”
aabaakwad (it clears after a storm), Art Gallery of Ontario
9. Old Man Looking Backward: Bob Haozous
This dark horse exhibition is a retrospective of Bob Haozous (Chiricahua Apache), a long-standing champion of freedom of expression. Among his long-standing battles against censorship, the most famous example is Cultural Crossroads of the Americas (1996), in which the University of New Mexico demanded he remove razor wire from a steel cutout sculpture juxtaposing precontact Mesoamerican cultures with symbols of US corporate imperialism. Haozous’s themes of border crossing, immigration, interpersonal relationships, and environmental crises stroke strong chords today and showcase the longevity of Indigenous struggles. He combines poetry with visual arts and painting with sculpture. Haozous also reveals a gentle side in slice-of-life drawings that illustrate La Casa al Lado del Camino, the 2017 memoir written by Anna Marie Houser, his 106-year-old mother.
10. Mahota Textiles
Chickasaw artist Margaret Roach Wheeler has created unique, handwoven artworks, wearable or not, through her Mahota Handwovens studios in Sulphur, Oklahoma. Now, with the Chickasaw Nation, she has expanded her vision to launch Mahota Textiles. These high-end blankets, pillows, purses, and other utilitarian items feature Mississippian-inspired designs by living Chickasaw artists. They are woven by Oriole Mill in Henderson, North Carolina, to bring Southeastern design out of museums and into people’s homes and lives.