This fall, indigenous perspectives on land and history move front and center in a specially curated exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Bentonville, Arkansas, is famous as the world headquarters of Walmart. But among tourists and art lovers, it’s also increasingly renowned as the home of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The gift of Walmart founder Sam Walton’s daughter Alice Walton, it opened to acclaim in 2011 with a mission of celebrating the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature.
This fall, indigenous perspectives on land and history move front and center in the specially curated exhibition Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now. Curated by Candice Hopkins (Tlingit, citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation); Mindy Besaw, Crystal Bridges curator of American art; and Manuela Well-Off-Man, chief curator at the Institute of American Indian Arts and Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, the show charts the history of contemporary indigenous art through 75 works ranging from painting, sculpture, and photography to video, sound, and performance art. Native artists from the United States and Canada include Kay WalkingStick, Carl Beam, Andrea Carlson, T.C. Cannon, Kent Monkman, Fritz Scholder, and Edgar Heap of Birds.
Viewers who come expecting traditional beadwork and weaving will be surprised at the rich variety of media these artists choose. I think they will experience a fresh perspective and appreciation for indigenous art. —Mindy Besaw, Curator of American Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The show aims to encourage conversation on the politics of how Native peoples have been represented, challenging historical assumptions and biases about indigenous art. “Indigenous artists have not always been invited to participate in exhibitions and conversations,” Besaw says. “Viewers who come expecting traditional beadwork and weaving will be surprised at the rich variety of media these artists choose. I think they will experience a fresh perspective and appreciation for indigenous art.”
Besaw is particularly excited about a collage by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish/Kootenai) titled Trade (Gifts for Trading Land With White People), a piece she created during the 500th-anniversary commemoration of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Measuring 86 inches by 170 inches, it uses an inscribed image of a canoe awash in layers of newspaper clippings and photographs of Native people under hanging sports memorabilia, contrasting authentic indigenous culture with the commercialized appropriation of Native American symbols used for everything from team names and mascots to logos and sports souvenirs.
Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now is on view through January 7, 2019, at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; January 25, 2019 – July 19, 2019, at Institute of American Indian Arts and Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe; and August 22, 2019 – January 5, 2020, at Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, North Carolina.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith American (b. 1940), Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People), 1992 Oil and mixed media on canvas, 86 x 170 in. (218.4 x 431.8 cm) Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, Museum purchase in memory of Trinkett Clark, Curator of American and Contemporary Art, 1989-96 93.2/Courtesy Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York