• Angel Truong

Native Women Artists - A breakthrough exhibition

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Gender inequality, the idea that men and women are not equal and typically deems women to be inferior, has long been an issue for women of any race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion, and sexual orientation. This is of no difference for indigenous women. Native American women have not only been an integral part of the creative driving force behind Native American arts. However, many of their individual contributions have gone unrecognized - unquestionably because of the unequal representation and stereotypes imposed on them as women, rather than as independent individuals with talent and passion.

Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists is the first major thematic exhibition that explores and celebrates the artistic achievements of Native female artists across North America. The presentation showcases over 80 works from various time-periods and mediums, including sculpture, textiles, beadwork, decorative arts, and photography. Native women artists and historians collaborated on the exhibition to cultivate a deeper understanding of Native American culture and art through new interpretations and insights. The team organized the show under the themes of "Legacy," "Power," and "Relationships" and created video interviews with artists to spotlight their identities, cultures, and artistically scholar creations. To further highlight artists' identities, the exhibition is a multilingual show with panel descriptions in the artists' native language and English.

This ‘one of a kind’ event is, in fact, a “four venue national tour” traveling exhibition. It is organized by Jill Ahlberg Yohe, associate curator of Native American Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Teri Greeves, an independent curator and member of the Kiowa nation. Through the contributions of an advisory panel of Native women artists and non-Native scholars as well as support from museums and foundations, this groundbreaking exhibition was made possible.

With every single piece of art shown, a story is told of the empowered artists and their individual cultures in their most authentic way possible.

"All my work has generally been about divination. I’m always interested in time and space and how certain things intersect and come together at a certain moment in time...And so the series, the Nebulae Series, was indeed that. So it was based entirely on my interpretation through watercolor of the Hubble space telescope..." (americanart.si.edu)

"This work features plants and animals that are listed in Canada as threatened, endangered, or extinct, like the dwarf lake iris, the Karner blue butterfly, and the cerulean warbler. Belcourt hopes that through her work we will remember the interconnected nature of existence on this planet..." (americanart.si.edu)

"Kelly Church, an Ottawa and Pottawatomi artist and educator wove a green and copper egg—a metaphor for new life and fertility—from the fibers of her nation’s forest to emphasize the continuance of cultural teachings and preservation. This Fabergé-like vessel speaks to her nation’s tradition of basket-weaving; Church and fellow community members relied on the black ash tree to bring the teaching to life." (smithsonianmag.com)

The Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists exhibition is a remarkable achievement and milestone not only for the contributing artists, themselves but for all Native women artists and their Native community as a whole.

Check it out: You can now immerse yourself in the arts of Native women artists and view the exhibition online!




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