• Halle Richards

The Celebration of Native American Female Artists

In June to August of 2019, The Minneapolis Institute of Art set up a massive exhibition, Hearts of Our People, dedicated to commemorating the art of Native American women. Jill Ahlberg Yoga and Teri Greeves began preparation in 2013 with the aim to focus on the ‘legacy, relationships, and power' of Native women artists. After 6 years of planning, they opened their exhibition displaying 117 works of art by several artists in Northern America.

Here are some memorable and beautiful art pieces from the show:

Dominating the center of the galleries entrance is a gleaming black 1985 Chevy El Camino, detailing the work of Rose Simpson. Simpson studied art at the University of New Mexico and the Institute of American Indian Arts. She received her MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design before dedicating to express the issues of Native America from the past and the future. She is a mixed-media artist who works with ceramics, metals, fashion, paintings, music, performances, and installations. At the Minneapolis exhibit she brought in a Chevy El Camino, Maria, that she built and painted as a special honor to Pueblo blackware pottery and their culture. She says her work aims to ‘obliterate the western dichotomy of aesthetic versus utilitarian objects to propose an indigenous aesthetic of use and human connectedness.’

Another breathtaking piece of art was painting, The Wisdom of the Universe, by painter Christi Belcourt Michif. Growing up and currently living in Canada, she wanted to express the crisis of 200 plus plants and animals suffering from threats, endangerment, and extinction. She wishes to portray the beauty of species and prompt viewers to ask themselves how they may contribute to this issue. She wishes to show that human beings have been ignoring the care of Mother Earth, and there is no time to waste. The painting and title expresses that everyone has the knowledge to do so, thus people need to take action.

Throughout history, art can be seen through the decades of social and cultural fashion. Three generations of female family members, Joyce Growing Thunder Fogarty (grandmother), Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty(daughter), and Jessa Rae (granddaughter and daughter) worked together to create a traditional Native American dress. Growing up, Jessa states that her grandmother was her legacy of bead-work and was raised alongside her brothers learning the beauty of beading. Give Away Horses is just one of several pieces the three have created through beadwork and quillwork, to express their history.

Teri Greeves explained that when one go into any exhibition of historic Native American art, over 80% of the work is made by women, but the museums don't recognize and appreciate them enough. The exhibition displays more than 100 other pieces of art, and is now traveling across North America, continuing to do so until the end of 2020.

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