We are pleased to present an exhibition of paintings, sculpture, photography and an installation by more than twenty contemporary Indigenous artists from diverse tribal affiliations spanning the United States and Canada. Native American Art Now, curated by Leesa Fanning, will be our largest and most ambitious exhibition of the year.
The established and emerging artists explore a wide range of subjects—land, place, nature and spiritual worldviews (including creation stories), the traumas of colonialism and racism—expressing resilience and hope. The work has emerged from customary practices and traditional meanings, forms, materials and techniques, as well as more contemporary subjects and alternative media and art-making processes.
Native American Art Now celebrates the prominence and importance of contemporary Indigenous art as it becomes an increasingly integral part of the international art world and enters the mainstream art-historical canon.
The exhibition includes work by Barry Ace, Norman Akers, Marcus Amerman, Christi Belcourt, Lola S. Cody, Monty Claw, Richard Glazer Danay, Beau Dick, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, Robert Houle, Matthew Kirk, Athena LaTocha, Nadia Myre, Dan Namingha, Marianne Nicolson, Jaad Kuujus (Meghann O’Brien), Virgil Ortiz, Preston Singletary, Duane Slick, Bently Spang, Lonnie Vigil and Will Wilson.
Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne and Arapaho, b. 1954), who is based in Oklahoma City, presents a suite of four brightly colored abstract paintings from his long-running Neuf series that expresses spiritual meaning and a reverence for nature. Also on view is Our Red Nations Were Always Green, one of the artist’s highly acclaimed text-based monoprint installations. A similar work from the series was acquired by MoMA in 2019. Heap of Birds is represented in the collections of The British Museum, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Toronto-based artist Robert Houle (Anishinaabe Saulteaux, b. 1947) creates work that seeks to decolonize historical narratives and functions as a reparative, healing practice. In his diptych Saysaygon, an enigmatic figure stands opposite an abstract color-field landscape punctuated by two equal-arm crosses. These floating forms represent the Morning Star—often depicted in Indigenous art—that heralds the break of a new day, hope, restoration and renewal. A major retrospective showcasing five decades of Houle’s work is currently on view in Washington, DC at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Among four works by Preston Singletary (Tlingit, European, Filipino, b. 1963), an internationally recognized Seattle-based artist who identifies his Tlingit culture as his fundamental inspiration, is a suite of glass baskets. They are contemporary versions of traditional Tlingit baskets historically woven by women from spruce-tree roots. Singletary imbues his with the refined aesthetics of the originals, which represent his way of rethinking and re-contextualizing traditional objects. Singletary’s work is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum and Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Detroit Institute of Arts and the National Museum of Scotland.
Arizona-born, New York-based artist Matthew Kirk (Diné [Navajo] and European descent, b. 1978) presents a new mixed-media work inspired by Diné motifs found in textiles as well as his urban environment. The three-dimensional construction is filled with his repertoire of distinctive motifs configured on what he calls “tiles.” Kirk employs his own pictorial language of elemental signs to explore the intersection of his Indigenous and Euro-American heritage and positions himself in respect to both. Kirk was a 2019 recipient of the Eiteljorg Museum Fellowship for Contemporary Native American Art. His work is in the Forge Project collection in Taghkanic, New York; the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York; and the Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana, among others.
Ontario-based artist Christi Belcourt (Métis, b. 1966) is widely known for her extraordinary pointillist paintings that express profound love for Mother Earth. Created especially for this exhibition, The Night Shift is a celebration of nocturnal creatures articulated through thousands of tiny dots that simulate centuries-old Anishinaabe beadwork. Belcourt’s work is in the collections of National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; First Peoples Hall at the Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, Quebec; and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota.
Virgil Ortiz (Ortiz, Cochiti, b. 1969), who lives and works in Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, perpetuates Cochiti ceramic traditions while simultaneously transforming them into a contemporary vision that embraces Pueblo history and culture and merges it with his life-long interest in science fiction. His striking ceramic sculpture Qui, Recon Watchman is part of a series that brings to life futuristic, time-traveling warriors dedicated to protecting the Pueblos and ensuring their survival. Work by Ortiz is currently on view in exhibitions at The New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe and the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine, where he was also part of the exhibition’s curatorial team.
Interdisciplinary artist Nadia Myre (Algonquin member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabeg First Nation, b. 1974) created a poetic landscape made from intricately woven ceramic beads especially for the exhibition. The Quebec-born, Montreal-based artist says her purpose is to “paint nature through beadwork.” Myre has exhibited extensively, including at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York. Her works are on permanent exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; and Canada’s embassies in Paris, London and Greece.
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION CURATOR
Dr. Leesa Fanning is an independent curator, specializing in contemporary global art in all media and bringing outstanding experience to her role as curator and advisor through more than twenty-five years of extensive work in the visual arts.
As Curator of Contemporary Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, she curated numerous exhibitions and oversaw the contemporary art collection. Her curatorial purview also encompassed Noguchi Court, the second largest collection of Noguchi sculptures in the United States, and the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park, a twenty-two-acre site with more than thirty modern and contemporary works.