artworkBest of the Web

Indigenous Artists + Best of the Web

by Grace Bonney

Thanksgiving is next week, and while I’m looking forward to time with family around the table, I know the of is . I’ve spent the last few years learning more about the history of indigenous people in this country (and ), and it’s been a humbling and important reminder to always about the traditions I participate in and what they represent to people who don’t necessarily share the same identity, background or history. In addition to learning about the full history of this holiday, I’ve been spending more and more time to and researching indigenous artists, makers and creatives and . So much of the design we see in the world today is informed by indigenous art, craft and cultural tradition and I wanted to share some of my favorite contemporary artists here today. I’m working on a larger series about indigenous artists in North America, but in the meantime these artists are creating incredible work that bridges ancient and modern techniques. I hope you’ll enjoy their work as much as I have. And if you have indigenous artists you’d like to share with us here, please feel free to share their names and links in the comment section below. Until Monday, here’s hoping everyone has a safe and happy weekend. –Grace

Collage above by Juanita Christine @ featuring the work of J. Okuma @

The work of combines traditional and contemporary imagery through the lens of Hyde’s Onondaga/Nez Perce background.

is informed by Indigenous traditions (she is of Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock heritage), but uses decidedly modern accessories (like shoes, bags and jackets) to create a contemporary spin.

Photographer photographs indigenous communities (often using tintypes) for his Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange (CIPX) project.

work ranges from photography and collage work to sculpture. His pieces (above) that combine antique photography with handwriting are so powerful.

This web series has been keeping me afloat lately. It helps walk through a lot of tough situations and explains how to talk and listen with compassion, vulnerability and an open heart. This has been a helpful tool for me in learning how to discuss Thanksgiving with my family and ways we can be more aware of the full history of our traditions and how they affect and reflect others.

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  • Thank you so much for sharing these resources and encouraging us to step back and think critically about how our traditions often come out of some dark, repressive histories. More importantly, I appreciate the assertion that Indigenous Peoples are still here. One of the purposes of the American Genocide was to ensure that future Americans did not have to be held accountable to this history because if everyone is dead/assimilated then what does it really matter? Thank you for ensuring that we have more spaces for challenging the colonial mindset, even as we celebrate and give thanks for togetherness.

  • Any readers who live in or are soon visiting Western Washington State should stop by The Evergreen State College Gallery. The Gallery is currently hosting Tears of Duk’WibahL (), an exhibition that opened during the August 2017 International Gathering of Indigenous Visual Artists of the Pacific Rim. The exhibition is stunning, encompassing a wide variety of art forms and expressions, both traditional and contemporary. Regular hours run through December 7th (though the official closing date is December 10th). The Gathering and the exhibition were organized by The Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, also known as Sgʷigʷialʔtxʷ: House of Welcome (). It’s a wonderful space and also very much worth a visit!

  • Hi Grace,
    Thank you for this post. I’m reading it on a wonky iPad so maybe I missed this, but the work of Wendy Red Star is both beautiful and powerful. I discovered Wendy during her residency at the Denver Art Museum last year, via Instagram. Her work is informed, mostly, by her cultural heritage – she’s Apsáalooke (Crow) and she grew up on reservation in Montana. I’m really glad to see this conversation happen, especially around Thanksgiving and Columbus Day. I was in Santa Fe in October last year and there was a powerful Native American dance held in the middle of an old historic square. The chief gave a moving speech and discussed the region’s tribes pain, loss and suffering over hundreds of years. As a nation we need to foster truth & reconciliation. Thank you for using your voice.

  • Dr. Jessica Metcalfe runs Beyond Buckskin (), which does a great job of highlighting indigenous art and fashion . I also love Wendy Red Star ().

  • Frank! Yes! SO happy to see you featured here! One of my all time favorite artists! This is such a great round up! Love seeing these some Santa Fe artists getting shout out on here, Grace! Thank you for all you do! Love this post!!!

  • Hello, Im a curatorial student from Toronto, here are a few First Nations artists that I highly encourage you to check out. They are doing great work here in Canada and making big strides in reclaiming their culture. Jackson 2bears, Janette Rogers, Christie Belcourt, Wanda Nanibush(Curator), Carl Beam, Rebecca Belmore, Lisa Meyers, Barry Ace. I also encourage you to check out ‘ raise a flag’, a show currently on display at Onsite Gallery in Toronto Curated by Ryan Rice. It is showing the artists listed above and many more, the show houses a strong body of work that brings light on the transformations happening in the indigenous art streams.

  • Hi Grace, Thanks for creating such an interesting article about the living art of tradition people.
    I’m the co-ordinator of an Education Page about Australian Aboriginal Art for Japingka Aboriginal Art Gallery in Australia. The page is a great starting point for people wanting to learn more about the contemporary Aboriginal fine art movement. We’ve collected interviews with artists from many different regions in Australia. You can also explore the art by theme, artist language group, story, art style, the region artist comes from or individual artist names. This page is a great way to learn more about the art of Australia’s first people.

    There is also an Artist page containing galleries of work from some of Australia’s leading Aboriginal Artists. Many people are surprised to see the how diverse and stunning this art is.

    For a deeper dig, we also have a set of Articles that cover a wide range topics relating to Aboriginal Art.

    My personal favourite is the interview with Professor Nadia Rosenthal about the extraordinary connection between Aboriginal art and cell images she sees through powerful microscopes. I’ve never forgotten how I felt after that interview.

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