On Saturday, January 25, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe opened seven new exhibitions, all focused on printmaking of one kind or another — effectively dedicating the entire building to this diverse and fertile collection of media. The shows run through July 31. ICTMN’s Santa Fe correspondent Alex Jacobs weighs in with a look at all of it.
The legendary Inuk artist Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013) was from Cape Dorset, where she became a founding member of Kinngait Studios in 1959, the artistic branch of the West Baffin Island Eskimo Cooperative. She was already known for sealskin applique clothing and beadwork, when she started drawing. Since then Kenojuak has won almost every award and honor Canada can bestow, an NFB documentary was made of her life and she was famous for the iconic Enchanted Owl print now seen everywhere. The works are from the Edward J. Guarino Collection and highlight Ashevak’s wide diversity of print techniques, materials and bold graphic style. She was known for using a single line from start to finish, no sketchpad or eraser.
Crow’s Shadow Institute of Arts Collection
Kenojuak’s bold graphic designs are balanced by the other main gallery exhibit, a select portfolio of prints over the last 20 years since the founding of the Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts in Pendleton, Oregon. James Lavadour founded Crow’s Shadow where emerging artists work with established master printers over two-week residencies. Past Crow’s Shadow artists include Truman Lowe, Edgar Heap-of-Birds, James Luna, Joe Fedderson, Kay Walkingstick.
This group of select prints comes from some of them plus Melanie Yazzie, Jim Denomie, Wendy Red Star, John Federov, Larry McNeil, Jeffrey Gibson, Gerald McMasters, Marie Watt, Rick Bartow, Frank LaPena, Vanessa Enos, Whitney Minthorn, Lillian Pitt, Phillip John Charette, Corwin Claremont, George Flett, Sara Siestreem and some youth printmakers too. Volunteers, board members, interns keep the Institute going, community and tribal interaction is supportive, sales of editions sustain the cooperative. The first week is spent making plates, second devoted to color trial proofs, the artist hopes to leave with an approval to print on finished work. The prints at MoCNA are varied in size, color, texture, intensity, drama and humor.
John Hitchcock: Traces of the Plains
John Hitchcock: Traces of the Plains is a high energy attack on nerve endings, a graffiti like assault with screenprint and drawing with mixed media markings of large animal skull like faces and skins, floating over tanks and military imagery. He references the notorious Ft. Sill military base so you can imagine the animals standing in for other brother native species, like us.
There’s also multi-media and a fantastic printed large felt installation titled “epicentro”. He was just in a well-received group show at 516 Arts, the downtown Albuquerque gallery, where he presented similar printed felt mural installations at last summer’s “Air, Land, Sea” exhibit; please check his work at Hybrid.net.
Tony Tiger: Full Consciousness of Being
In Tony Tiger’s words, “To be fully conscious is to live life physically, mentally and spiritually – to engage the head, heart and hand in the process of being.” Tiger is the Director of Art at Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma, which has produced such Native Art legends as Acee Blue Eagle, Woody Crumbo, Dick West and Ruth Blalock Jones. The son of an old-school Indian Baptist preacher, his own pulpit is now his art, he calls his work a “creative journey of understanding”. He is influenced by Woodlands tribal designs, ribbon-work applique motifs, and all their colors, patterns, shapes and surfaces. He presents the only true paintings in the whole exhibit but they are very graphic oriented, like runs of fabric and textiles or prayers, mantras and visual songs.
David Sloan: Endangered Species
This is a very likeable exhibit, with the old Navajo Times advertisements from the 60’s faded in the background that tell the new Navajo consumers “to buy, buy, buy” and in David’s words, “to consume the American monoculture, eating flour, beef, driving cars, using gasoline… entire generations who grew up on the reservation were now being taught where to get their sustenance from…were being taught to change focus from herding, farming, and being nomadic people to survive, to believing in the system of capitalism and economics to provide for the needs of society. All the while Native Americans… were losing rights to homelands, their connection to environment and their languages.” Sloan resolves all these issues by the use of the old consumer ads overlaid by the brightly colored monoprints of endangered species in the Dine language. Hung like prayer flags in 5 rows of 6 different images, ‘A?tah ‘át’éego Yéé’bii’tádiikááh – Endangered Species, does offer the viewer, the consumer, the audience, choices to be made in their everyday lives, that when they buy indiscriminately they are also harming other living things.
Bon a Tirer
Bon a Tirer, (B.A.T.) is a French fine art term meaning, “good to pull” or “ready to pull”, a display of prints from MoCNA’s permanent collection, curated by Tatiana Lomahaftewa-Singer and Alex Pena. They are all big names, Harry Fonseca, Keri Ataumbi, Duane Slick, C Maxx Stevens, Marie Watt, Emmi Whitehorse and a fine set of brightly colored landscapes by Norman Akers.
The Place Between
The last exhibit is a delicate dance of two different artists who work in isolation in the same place (Santa Fe) yet appear so similar due to the printmaking process, you think they are the same person as they describe a sense of place and that place is The Place Between. Sallyann Paschall and Alex Pena were invited by curator Ryan Rice because they complemented each other due to their printmaking processes and the conceptual basis of “the original multiple” and creative manipulation.
Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program will be featuring short films in the Helen Hardin Media Gallery from January 25 – March 31 and May 24 – July 31. Sikumi (On The Ice) Inupiaq director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean; Nikamowin (Song) Swampy Cree director Kevin Lee Burton; Shimasani Navajo director Blackhorse Lowe; Gesture Down – I Don’t Sing , director Cedar Sherbert’s (Kumeyaay) adaption of a James Welch poem; Two Cars One Night/New Zealand, director Taika Waititi (Te Whanau Apanui) an unlikely first love story.
MoCNA ‘s last show was wall-oriented but very 3D, objects out in the middle of the rooms, hanging off walls, jutting into space making the viewer meander around like you were in some Indians’ home full of wonderful art. This 2D exhibit works very well also, giving the viewer more space to visually capture each piece. ARTiculations in Print runs from January 25 to July 31. The Museum’s Indian Market Show will follow these exhibits. Gaw! Already talking about the 93rd annual Indian Market, o-wah!
Alex Jacobs, Santa Fe NM
January 22, 2014