"Good Luck" by America Meredith, 2012

"Good Luck" by America Meredith, 2012

American Indian Artists Respond to the Richard E. and Dorothy Rawlings Nelson Collection of American Indian Art at Tweed Museum

Opening at the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth, Minnesota is ENCODED: Traditional Patterns / A Contemporary Response, an art exhibition guest curated by John Hitchcock. Hitchcock is a prolific and inventive printmaker and installation artist, as well as a professor of art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, whose recent activity includes the print action Epicentro: Retracing the Plains, in conjunction with the 54th Venice Biennial in 2011. Hitchcock’s work can be seen at http://hybridpress.blogspot.com/.

Hitchcock is the first of two guest curators working at the Tweed Museum of Art under the auspices of Perspectives and Parallels: Expanding Interpretative Foundations with American Indian Guest Curators and Arts Writers. The program is supported by a highly competitive Access to Artistic Excellence Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Perspectives and Parallels allows guest curators to create exhibitions with American Indian artists and others that also make use of collections at Tweed, in particular the Richard E. and Dorothy Rawlings Nelson Collection of American Indian Art. The project also employs writers Amy Lonetree and Joanna Bigfeather, who will provide critical texts in response to the work of the guest curators.

Hitchcock’s project ENCODED premieres first, while that of a second guest curator, Amber-Dawn Bear Robe, Siksika Nation, will appear in 2013. These curators and writers bring to the museum and the community fresh perspectives on what it means to be 21st century artists with ties to American Indian traditions. As more artists and curators interact with the museum’s collection, their unique points of view enlarge its meaning and allow the Museum an expanded range of interpretive opportunities.

Hitchcock selected five artists for ENCODED, and each reviewed and selected objects from the museum collection to exhibit alongside their own works in the exhibition. The artists of ENCODED come from a variety of geographic and tribal backgrounds: Emily Arthur, of Eastern Band of the Cherokee descent, from Florida; America Meredith, Swedish/Cherokee, living in New Mexico; Henry Payer and Tom Jones, Ho-Chunk, both living in Wisconsin; and Dyani White Hawk, Sicangu Lakota, German, and Welsh, living in Minnesota.

Their choices and statements reveal surprising, often unexpected connections. Henry Payer selected a kitsch wall hanging with an Indian-stereotyping quote to exhibit with his advertising-influenced collages, because, as he says, “If I was to find this in an antique store, it would be something I would use as an appropriated voice within my collage works.”

Henry Payer art

"Westward Expansion" by Henry Payer, 2012 (Courtesy Tweed Museum of Art/Collection of the artist)

Santa Fe-based artist America Meredith reflects more broadly, saying: “ENCODED is a very apt name for a show dealing with traditional arts. Beadwork, hide painting, carving, ceramics, and other art forms were not just pretty; they were all visual languages that conveyed information on multiple wavelengths – iconography, color symbolism, composition, proxemics, materials, etc. … By studying Native art, I hope to further understand our cosmologies, oral history, philosophy, and our art history. My art is the primary vehicle I use to share the information I’ve gleaned, which is why I include representations of early Native art in my own artwork.”

Hitchcock’s curatorial stance allows the artists great freedom to define themselves, and acknowledges that freedom as a kind of power: “ENCODED responds to a general trend in contemporary art and museum practice to invite critical reflection, and to view responses to museum collections as a basis for art-making and exhibition development. In this instance, the artists can freely position and create voices for their own work and for works from a museum collection. They create not only paintings and works on paper but curatorial projects, installation art, public art, and convergence media that are “encoded” with an indigenous aesthetic. These encoded “conversions” are happening locally, nationally and globally, evidence of a contemporaneity and a power that is unique to the Native experience.”

For further information on the exhibit and the Tweed Museum of art, click here.

Upcoming exhibition-related events:

Opening Reception/Family Day
Tweed Museum of Art
Saturday, October 20, 2012
2:00 – 4:00 PM
Featuring informal gallery talks with guest curator John Hitchcock and participating artists Tom Jones, Dyani White Hawk, Henry Payer, and Emily Arthur, along with an art activity for all ages.

Art Teacher Workshop
Tweed Museum of Art
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
4:00 – 7:00 PM

Visual Culture Lecture Series with John Hitchcock – ENCODED Guest Curator gives a presentation about the exhibition, and his own work and career.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
6:00 – 7:00 PM
University of Minnesota Duluth
Montague Hall 70


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American Indian Artists Respond to the Richard E. and Dorothy Rawlings Nelson Collection of American Indian Art at Tweed Museum

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