Courtesy Ernest Amoroso, NMAI
“Conductors of Our Own Destiny,” 2013. Dallin Maybee (Northern Arapaho/ Seneca). Buffalo hide, acrylic paint, beads.

6 Exhibits to Check Out: 2016 Hot List

Alex Jacobs

Inspiring awe and learning, these museum exhibits bring together the best of Native culture and history.

Historic and Modern Ledger Art

The National Museum of the American Indian in New York City presents a visual treat with its current exhibit, Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains, which runs through December 4, 2016. The exhibit, curated by Emil Her Many Horses, features 50 contemporary pieces of ledger and narrative art in various media commissioned for the show, and nine contemporary pieces as well as 17 historical artworks from the museum’s collection. The historical pieces date back as far as 1840—some were made by Native warriors imprisoned at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida. Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota), a Native artist, included legendary Plains figures and artists, White Swan (Crow), Long Soldier (Lakota/Nakota), Mountain Chief (Blackfeet), Black Chicken (Yanktonai), and Chief Washakie (Shoshone).

The commissioned pieces represent modern takes on the old style, many in new media, but they all remain close to the narrative concept of recounting deeds and stories of ancestors and relatives. Originally, Native women didn’t do ledger art, but they are well represented here, including full regalia dresses and dolls. There are four exhibits running concurrently.

Learn the Truth of Little Bighorn

The Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is offering original and historic Lakota ledger art at their downtown venue. On June 25, 1876, Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors under Crazy Horse, Gall and Sitting Bull, defeated General George A. Custer and his 7th Cavalry regiment on the banks of the Little Bighorn River in present-day Montana. Called the Custer Battalion, five out of 12 companies were annihilated. This was a major event in U.S. history, but the Native viewpoint has only come to light in the last generation or so.

First Person: Remembering Little Bighorn is an exhibit of Lakota artists Stephen Standing Bear (c.1859-1933) and Amos Bad Heart Bull (c.1868-1913), who were at the battle, and recorded their experiences using traditional pictographs drawn on cloth and paper. For years, any Indians who claimed to be at the Battle of Little Bighorn could’ve been jailed for their participation. This kept the Native American narrative hidden and historical truths censored. Until now. The exhibit runs until November 20, 2016.

“First Person: Remembering Little Bighorn” is an exhibit of Lakota artists Stephen Standing Bear and Amos Bad Heart Bull, who were at the battle, and recorded their experiences. (Courtesy The Philbrook Museum of Art)

Native Fashion ‘Beyond Feathers and Fringe’

The Portland Art Museum presents Native Fashion Now, a groundbreaking gathering of contemporary Native American fashion, described by Racked as “the intersection of aesthetic and spirituality.” Hyperallergic says it’s “fiercely contemporary.” It’s all covered, from Rez street wear to exquisite haute couture—Native Fashion Now celebrates the visual range, creative expression and political nuance of Native American fashion. Nearly 100 works covering the last 50 years explore the vitality of Native fashion designers and artists from innovative Native trailmakers to today’s maverick designers making their mark in the modern world of fashion.

Included are Patricia Michaels’ (Taos Pueblo) finale ensembles from the television series Project Runway, designers Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo), Orlando Dugi (Navajo) and Jamie Okuma’s (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock) dramatically beaded Christian Louboutin boots. There are innovative works made from mylar, vinyl and stainless steel, plus contemporary garments and accessories that cross genres, cultures and materials. Native Fashion Now “underscores Native concepts of dress and beauty, which are inextricably bound to identity and tradition in a rapidly changing world,” said Karen Kramer, the Peabody Essex Museum curator where the exhibit debuted in November 2015.

The exhibit is on display until September 4, 2016 in Portland. It will then go to the Philbrook Museum, then New York City’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Dress designed by Orlando Dugi, Navajo. Cape and dress from “Desert Heat” Collection, 2012. Paint, silk, organza, feathers, beads, and 24k gold; feathers. Hair and makeup: Dina DeVore. Model: Mona Bear. (Courtesy Orlando Dugi, Santa Fe)

Indian Pueblo Culture

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico is celebrating its 40th anniversary with renovations and their first permanent exhibit, We Are of This Place: The Pueblo Story. Cultural Engagement Officer Travis Suazo (Laguna, Taos, Acoma) said of the new exhibit: “The renovated museum is the culmination of years of working with our Pueblo communities to create a modern museum that does justice to our living culture. We Are of This Place gives visitors the tools to understand and learn from our history of strength and resilience.”

The IPCC central building’s semi-circular shape was modeled after Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, one of Pueblo peoples’ great architectural achievements. IPCC has become a leading artistic and cultural institution and a much-needed educational resource. It has become a gathering place for Pueblo people and all tribes of the Southwest. It is off I-40, not far from I-25, downtown and Old Town Albuquerque.

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico is celebrating its 40th anniversary with renovations and their first permanent exhibit, “We Are of This Place: The Pueblo Story.” (Courtesy The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center)

Have You Heard?

The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona has grown from a small museum 75 years ago into an internationally recognized museum known for the quality of its festivals, educational programs, and collections. The Heard presents six to eight exhibits every year, and has 11 galleries that present both traditional and contemporary Native American artwork.

The Heard Museum Guild Indian Arts Market is a major annual event held in early March that attracts some of the best Native artists. Currently, there are exhibits showing Native stone and bronze sculpture, landscapes by Native painters, a Helen Hardin portfolio of rarely seen prints, and a Fred Harvey Indian Detours exhibit. Popular shows from the permanent collections are a revised, updated boarding school exhibit and “HOME: Native People in the Southwest” with interactive exhibits, a full scale Hogan and a katsina collection numbering 500. There is an excellent gift shop with family days, workshops, artist lectures and other public programs that are offered.

Group portrait at Isleta Pueblo. Charles Lummis –photographer. ND. (Courtesy of the Autry National Center/Southwest Museum, Los Angeles, P_8405)

If You Know the Way to Santa Fe...
The IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts is a must-see stop in Santa Fe, a city that has an impressive number of private and state-run museums. Cherokee designer and IAIA president emeritus, Lloyd “Kiva” New has a number of exhibits this summer as part of a three museum celebration of his 100th birthday in Santa Fe. Also showing through December 31, 2016 is Akunnittinni, an excellent exhibit of Inuit printmaking by three generations of women: grandmother, mother and daughter; Visions and Visionaries from the MoCNA permanent collection, striking “shamanic” or visionary alumni work through July 2017; and Forward, an installation by Eliza Naranjo Morse through December 31, 2016. A Rick Bartow retrospective opens in August. The wonderful gift shop carries Native books, music, videos, children’s books, food and gift items, jewelry and artwork from IAIA alumni who are from all around Indian country.  IAIA student, Sundance Festival or Smithsonian films run continuously; family days, artist lectures and other public programs are offered.

The IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts is a must-see stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Courtesy MOCNA/IAIA)

This article appeared in the Indian Country Today Media Network 2016 Hot List Magazine.

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