Anne Leibovitz, artist (Tweed Museum of Art)
Louise Bourgeois, New York City, 1997

Memory & Culture in Native Portraits of Art at Tweed Museum


ICTMN caught up with Amber-Dawn Bear Robe to talk about her work on the exhibit “Blood Memoirs: Exploring Individuality, Memory, and Culture through Portraiture,” which is currently on display at the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth, Minnesota.

Bear Robe, Blackfoot from Siksika Nation in Alberta, Canada, is Director of the Pablita Museum of Indian Women in the Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a guest curator at the Tweed Museum. 

“A theme to Blood Memoirs is that there is no one reality, culture, or experience that trumps or speaks for all,” Bear Robe wrote in an email.

The exhibition explores the nuances, meanings and perspectives of identity, focusing on Native American and regional artists.

Floral Man, Self-Potrait, 1986 (Frank Big Bear, artist)

Tells us about "Blood Memoirs." What is the inspiration behind it?

“Blood Memoirs” looks at the revealing story of self-portraits. The act of creation reveals something about the artist, social setting, place-in-time and environment.

Through the lens of the permanent collections of the Tweed Museum, the exhibition presents a contemporary vision of the North American self.

We spotlighted a group of artist portraits, which lead to revealing artist identity and character, a form of archives of diverse memory and culture surfaces.

Self Portrait of the Artist as Artist Naturalist, Loplop's Sister, 2001 (Sue Johnson, artist)

How did the opportunity to curate the works come about? Did you select the artists?

The Tweed Museum curator invited me to be guest curator at the Tweed Museum. At the time, I was the Director/Curator of Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art.

The exhibition was based on the Tweed Museum’s permanent collections. I fleshed out the show to include more of my vision by including works by Canadian First Nations and Native American artists. This was necessary because the exhibition focuses on self-portraits and adding these artists reflects my self-portrait: where I am from, and who I am as an aboriginal curator. 

Untitled, Portrait of the Artist's Daughter, 1960s (Norval Morrisseau, artist)

What did you look for in choosing a work for the exhibition?

I look for works that tell an interesting and creative story that is meaningful to me, a First Nations curator, and [to] women.

Buffalo Boy, 2004 (Adrian Stimson, artist)

What pieces speak to you most? Is there a particular story behind some of the artists' work?

Right now, I am a huge fan of the work of Naomi Bebo, who I included in “Blood Memoirs.” Many stories live behind every work of art, and every exhibition, and make new stories.

Beaded mask, 2010 (Naomi Bebo, artist)

Blood Memoirs is on display at the Tweed Museum of Art until March 14, 2014. All works above are courtesy Tweed Museum of Art. For more information, visit