Art Opening – “Cultural Connections” Evergreen Gallery

Artist Herman Pi'ikea Clark installing work in Evergreen Gallery.

There is an art opening at Evergreen Gallery, at The Evergreen State College, in Olympia, WA this Friday evening, from 5-7pm, December 9th, 2011, with an artist talk by Herman Pi’ikea Clark (Kanaka Maoli), artist in residence.

All works in the exhibition were produced on-site at The Evergreen State College in the past year. This exhibition is emblematic of the creative energy and cultural capital of the region, which capitalizes on the northwest coast as an economic hub and center of cultural exchange. The exhibition includes local artists as well as transplants and visitors from other regions, including visiting artist Herman Pi’ikea Clark, who is from Hawaii  and  teaches at the university level in New Zealand.

Prints by Linley Logan, Kayeri Akweks, and Ron Alphonse

Curatorial Statement:

The vision of the Longhouse as a gathering place for people of all cultural backgrounds is celebrated in Cultural Connections, a collection of artworks that honors the diversity of indigenous arts and cultures in today’s world. The exhibition features art by lead artists Marwin Begaye (Navajo), Peter Boome (Upper Skagit), and Herman Pi’ikea Clark (Kanaka Maoli), along with Northwest artists who participated in printmaking workshops led by Marwin Begaye and Peter Boome.

Participating artists include: Kristina Ackley (Oneida), Kayeri Akweks (Mohawk), Ron Alphonse (Cowichan), Bobbie Bush (Chehalis), Lara Evans (Cherokee), Louie Gong (Nooksack), Jeremiah George (Squaxin Island), Laura Grabhorn (Tlingit), Bonnie Graft (Muckleshoot), Michael Holloman (Colville), Charlene Krise (Squaxin Island), Tina Kuckkahn-Miller (Ojibwe), Greg Lehman (Squaxin Island), Linley Logan (Seneca), Alex McCarty (Makah), Kris Miller (Skokomish), Margie Morris (Tlingit), Paul Nicholson (Legacy Art Gallery), Erin Oly (Studio Technician), Ruth Peterson (Peterson Art Gallery), Yvonne Peterson (Chehalis), Lillian Pitt (Warm Springs/Wasco/Yakama), Arlen Speights (Houma), Andrea Wilbur-Sigo (Squaxin Island), and James Youngs (Squaxin Island).

Partners: The Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, the Squaxin Island Tribe, and Evergreen Gallery. Funding support provided by the Ford Foundation, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Evergreen Gallery is located in Olympia, Washington, one hour south of Seattle, on the campus of The Evergreen State College, 2700 Evergreen Parkway, Olympia, WA. Evergreen Gallery is located in the Library Building on the main floor.

Gallery Hours: December 7, 2011 – January 18, 2012 (winter break closure Dec. 12 – Jan. 6) hours Dec. 7-10: 10 am – 5 pm. Phone: (360) 867-5125

Evergreen is a public liberal arts college, founded in 1971. This exhibition was organized through the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center.


House of Welcome in Puget Sound Salixh - graphic

For more than a decade the mission of the “House of Welcome” Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at The Evergreen State College has been to promote indigenous arts and cultures. In the beginning, the Longhouse focused on six local Puget Sound tribes and their artists; today they work with indigenous artists throughout the Pacific Northwest region, nationally, and with other Pacific Rim indigenous peoples.

Preview of the exhibition "Cultural Connections"

Two Openings Worth Visiting Tonight – Weds. Aug 17, 2011


It’s Indian Art Market week, and that means a slew of gallery openings and film screenings in addition to official SWAIA events. Two art openings worth seeing tonight are at Margaret Moses Gallery and Blue Rain Gallery. The artwork pictured above is a detail of Chris Pappan‘s painting “Entitled,” featured at Margaret Moses Gallery.

Blue Rain Gallery features work by painters Marla Allison and Norma Howard, and pottery by Jody Naranjo.

Both openings take place from 5-8pm on Wednesday, August 17th. They are within walking distance of each other.

For more information:
130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite C, Santa Fe, NM
410 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM

EMERGENCE by John Feodorov at Santa Fe’s MoCNA

John Feodorov, Domi - Nature, 2010

See this artwork before the exhibition closes on March 31st, 2011! Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Santa Fe.

A lot has happened in the world since my last posting on Not Artomatic. There was the usual problem of working too much. But a lot has gone on in the world, too – Egypt, Syria, Libya, Japan. It has felt rather like the fall of the Berlin Wall, but with a new event every two weeks or so.  I say that from the perspective of someone who was a high school senior in 1990. Something changed in the world then – I saw it on television[1], and there was intense emotion on a massive scale, but no real understanding of what might come afterward. My high-schooler imagination was excited, but I lacked the knowledge, the perspective to really understand much of it. Twenty-one years later, I find that hasn’t changed much! I swirled around news sources that didn’t even exist back then, looking for information, understanding, answers. I also swirled around my memories of conversations with artist John Feodorov about his new series of work, titled Emergence[2]. I wanted to write about this series, but kept finding something in the way. First, I told myself it was because I need to be more academic and I need good research on Navajo cosmology and the Emergence concept. I did research, and had trouble coming up with an explanatory, non-Eurocentric (yet possessing academic authority) source. Unlike many religions, Navajo religion does not proselytize.

But the artist’s conversations with me made it clear that this structuring worldview was very important. On a gut-level, I’ve been tying that in with the cascade of events in the Middle East, recent devastating earthquakes, the tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan. The Christian paradigm of apocalypse does not seem to help us deal with widespread change, whether that change is natural disaster, environmental disaster, or political collapse. For human cultures to survive, we have to have cultural foundations that help us recover from disaster and create some kind of order from entirely new conditions. I think that’s what appealed to me about looking at Feodorov’s Emergence series.

John Feodorov, Emergence #3, 70" x 70", Acrylic on unstretched canvas, 2010

Any of you who are reading this who are writers (and I’m sure you all are writers, even if you don’t think of yourself that way) are familiar with something we end up calling “writer’s block.” I don’t think it really exists. When my mind ducks away from writing something, there is usually a reason. Often, it is because I still need to think/feel my way through an issue and writing sometimes isn’t the best way to do so. Sometimes, making art helps me figure things out and then I can get back to the writing. Other times, words from another person (in conversation, e-mail, a song, Facebook) help me make a connection I was missing. And then here is something that floors me every time it happens. I occasionally get stalled because I ALREADY WROTE THE WORDS I NEEDED. The text in the section below is from an early blog post I wrote called “What is so important about Native American Art.”

“Indigenous populations have experienced multiple migrations, population losses, and recoveries. The conceptual unification of oral tradition and the production of material culture contextualize this history and provide us with models for survivance that are useful not only to our indigenous communities, but perhaps to the population at large during this current period of change marked by serious […] upheaval.

We still have the stories and songs of when we arrived in our Tlingit homeland, over 10,000 years ago, not only the stories of how we got to where we are now, but the stories of the people who had to sacrifice along the way. Part of our stories have to do with the sacrifices by clan mothers in order to get where we needed to be.[3]

– Larry McNeil

Such stories help us contextualize present issues. Our artforms give us the tools we need to cope with change, to be resilient, to make conscious choices that consider the long term. Thinking seven generations ahead requires imagination! Art is more than a reaction to events in our lives; artistic practice also leads to real-world changes.

In very practical ways, indigenous artistic practices lead to involvement in environmental issues.” All of this has been leading into actually addressing Feodorov’s Emergence, series in reference to the Navajo cultural framework that describes their origins as a people who have passed through a series of worlds or existences, with each new world arising from the out-of-balance destruction of the previous one.  The organizing principles, spiritual forces, and sacred terrain are different with each new emergence.

John Feodorov, Emergence #4, acrylic on canvas, 72" x 72", 2010

I always think it is important to pay attention to artists’ own statements about their work, as you will know from reading my writing in general. The following is John Feodorov’s exhibition statement, which was prominently placed at the entrance to his exhibition:


In 1979, the largest accidental release of radioactive material in USA history happened in Church Rock in the state of New Mexico.  A tailing dam burst, sending eleven hundred tons of radioactive mill wastes and ninety million gallons of contaminated liquid pouring toward Arizona into the Rio Puerco River.  Today, the Navajo communities still cannot use the water.” *

According to a Sept. 23, 2010 article in Indian Country Today, “The New Mexico Environmental Law Center filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court this month to reverse the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to allow in situ leach (ISL) uranium mining in the Four Corners region of New Mexico. […] The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted Hydro Resources, Inc. a license to mine uranium in Crownpoint and Church Rock.”

According to the Associated Press, 11/17/2010: “Supreme Court justices Monday decided not to review a decision that allows Hydro Resources Inc. to leach-mine uranium at the aquifer used by 15,000 Navajos in the Church Rock and Crownpoint areas.”

The works in this room explore the transformation of environmental tragedy into possible new mythologies. This is the basis of the Navajo creation myth–one world’s destruction is another’s creation. With the acknowledgement by most scientists that our global climate is heating up, and with the recent oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, many people admit a sense of helplessness and even resignation. To be honest, I sometimes find myself among them and this ambivalence is reflected within this recent body of work. While watching the continuous live video feed of the BP oil well freely spewing into the Gulf, I couldn’t help but think of the Navajo creation story where animals, insects and gods climbed a magic reed, like the fabled Jack and his beanstalk, from the Third World into our current Fourth World to escape annihilation. I kept thinking of that leaking pipe as another “reed” in which spirits embedded deep within the Earth were now emerging into our world, like medieval demons charging through the mouth of Hell, or red ants marching towards unsuspecting picnickers.

With the Oil well now capped, it is easy for us to fall back into our daily routines. I hope this doesn’t happen. As demonstrated above, environmental pollution and exploitation continues to this day. Since we don’t seem to learn from the past, it might be a good idea for us to start looking around for another magic reed. * (Excerpted from “Pollution of the Navajo Nation Lands” a paper by Kimberly Smith of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, presented August 2007 at the United Nations International Expert Group Meeting On Indigenous Peoples And Protection Of The Environment, which took place in Khabarovsk, Russian Federation. This meeting was hosted by the Government of Khabarovsk, the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North, Siberia and the Far East (RAIPON) in the Russian Federation.)”[4]

Feodorov’s words (above) take on even more relevance in relationship to the current revisiting of nuclear policy going on worldwide as a result of the containment problems at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant. What about the work itself?

Rani Molla wrote a review of the exhibition for the Santa Fe Reporter, which is worth reading. Molla closes with this statement:

“The fifth world—entered through a sooty smokestack and in which we teddy bears are still defined by the items we buy—would already be dismal. Perhaps the point is that there is no fifth world—just this one, and it’s a scary place.”[5]

I was terribly disappointed with that statement. I didn’t think it was all that dismal. I found humor, irony, sarcasm, in many of the pieces, yes. There also seemed to be a cautionary aspect, too. If we don’t shift some core values, we’ll end up placing our power-generating capacity (and the corporations involved) into a position of deity-like power over us. I’m probably a bit too used to Feodorov’s work to look at it with fresh eyes. He’s been using the Teddy Bear as a symbolic element to his work since the beginning of his career as an artist.[6] The open-mouthed profile view of a human head is also repeated element in his 2D work. Sometimes the open mouth represents a scream, desperation, pain. Other times, it represents speech, breath, a connection to the sacred.

John Feodorov, Oracle, 2010

Maybe Molla and other reviewers are right – Emergence is about dystopia instead of  future potential. I keep asking myself how the work would have to be different in order to present a new mythology to help us feel our way into a Fifth World. What is the middle ground between naïve hopefulness and dystopic vision? Can the video feed, the antenna, the open-mouthed communication, the apotheosis of the stuffed bear, the grinding of candy corn, combine to show us the world we already live in?  Is Emergence really about the Fourth World? And can we really leave that world behind us? Can we alter those patterns in the next order of things? Does Feodorov need to show us a Fifth World that is better than the current state? I’m not sure I could set my own skepticism aside for that.

If you have the chance to go see this work – say you’re in Santa Fe at some point during the next two days – take a look at Emergence. See if you can find hope, despair, and a questioning of the  “natural order.” I think I did.

John Feodorov, Ambiguity, aprox. 3' x 4', 2010

[1] And by television, I mean I saw it on all three networks, with rabbit ear antennas, when we were amazed that the new tv had a digital display  of 1-99. All the channels were fuzz once we tuned it beyond channel 13. My family did not get cable television until after I left home.

[2] The exhibition is at IAIA’s Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It closes 3/31/2011. See it right away if you can!

[3] Larry McNeil, comments from the panel “Migration, Relocation and the Diaspora,” during the Creation – Migration – Change convening, February 2009.

[4] Wall text by John Feodorov, accompanying the Emergence exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Santa Fe, NM January 14 – March 31, 2011.

[5] Rani Molla, “Emergency: Emergence Shows the Environment in Dire Straits,” The Santa Fe Reporter, January 19, 2011.

[6] I wrote a short essay as part of MoCNA/IAIA’s Vision Project and specifically address the symbolism of the Teddy Bear in popular culture and how Feodorov uses it in his work. This essay is not yet published. I will update this footnote after the publication is available to the public.

John Feodorov, Untitled, 2010

History of Native American Fashion

Here is a 45 minute video of Jessica Metcalfe speaking about the history of Native American high fashion. She provides an excellent background on recent history of Native clothing and Native designers in fashion. She has done ground-breaking work on the topic and her presentation in the video is excellent. even if you are primarily interested in fine art or Native American material culture, you will find her presentation relevant and interesting. Some designers/artists featured in the lecture:Lloyd Kiva New, Margaret Wood, Wendy Ponca, Patricia Michaels, Virgil Ortiz, and more.

Jessica Metcalfe’s work, as shown in the video above, addresses gender issues, formal and symbolic elements, materials, and intersections between fashion, art, and technology. Jessica Metcalfe holds a doctoral degree in American Indian Studies from University of Arizona and currently holds a postdoctoral fellowship from University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She also writes a successful blog about Native American fashion, called Beyond Buckskin. The lecture took place January 19th at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM. Having her lecture available on the web is a great resource!

Merritt Johnson Performance this Friday at Evergreen

Merritt Johnson, Clouds Live Where, 2010

Artist Merritt Johnson is performing Clouds Live Where in the main entry area of the Library Building at The Evergreen State College (Olympia, WA) Friday November 12th at 5:30 – 6:00 pm. . Johnson’s paintings and mixed media work are on display down the hall in the college’s gallery as part of the exhibition It’s Complicated – Art about Home. There will be a brief curator’s talk in the gallery beforehand…starting at 5pm. Johnson’s performance this Friday takes the ideas present in her paintings: observations about boundaries created by humans, patterns of movement of wind, water, animal migrations – and moves those ideas into action in a physical space.

For more information on Merritt Johnson’s work and it’s relationship to the theme of home, you can click on the file below. It will open in a goofy tiny little window and will play the enhanced podcast (audio with still images). Better yet, download the file and play it through iTunes or your iPod-like device. This podcast was created by Evergreen students in the program Visions and Voices. They did their research, made a storyboard, and learned multiple software programs in a five week period!


Please try clicking the link above… this is new technology/file format for me. I am lookinig for a better way of including m4a files on my blog.

Coming Soon: It’s Complicated – Art about Home


Installation in progress at The Evergreen State College Gallery in Olympia, Washington


Not Artomatic has been quiet over the past week because it is a brand new academic year, full of new students, new schedules, additional tasks… plus the installation of an exhibition of work by contemporary Native artists. Organizing the exhibition has been a year-long project. The exhibition opens Thursday October 14th, 5-8pm, at the Gallery at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Artist Nicholas Galanin will be speaking about his work the day prior to the opening: Wednesday Oct. 13th, 11:30am-1:00pm in Lecture Hall I, with overflow space available. Art about Home includes artworks by: Nicholas Galanin, Erin Genia, Maria Hupfield, Merritt Johnson, Jason Lujan, Kimowan Metchewais, Sarah Sense, Kade Twist, and Jeffrey Veregge.

The exhibition asks some important questions that have resonance for for Native and non-Native audiences: Is home a house, a place, a reservation, an ecological region, a spiritual landscape, a gathering of family and friends? Is home an idea, or a feeling, or a literal architectural space? Can we choose home? Is there an ancestral geographic home that is more home than any other place could be? What are the dynamics of the very literal legal and geographic boundaries to “home,” as on tribal lands, reservations, pueblos, and reserves? What are the experiences of moving from one home to another? How do we make a new place home? How do these experiences of “home” tie in with our daily lives and the divisions between home and work, family and friends?

For more information, please visit

The exhibition and public programming has been made possible by generous support from the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, and from these groups at Evergreen: Evergreen State College Foundation, President’s Diversity Fund, and the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center.

Methodology – Art as a Mode of Inquiry

Bow watch in a storm onboard the Schooner Zodiac.

I just returned from a 4-day sailing trip through the San Juan Islands on the schooner Zodiac. It was a work trip (The Evergreen State College), which meant about 6 hours a day of very productive seminar sessions, usually discussing poems that have at least a tangential relationship to the sea. We also had sessions on two days that dealt with drawing as a mode of inquiry to be used in conjunction with scientific disciplines. Faculty member Lucia Harrison provided everyone with a handy notebook that provided detailed examples and instructions for creating a field notebook that includes drawing from observation…even for people who don’t ordinarily draw. She led some excercises on the deck with gestural drawing and blind contour drawing. Gestural drawings are very quick, energetic drawings that just aim at getting down the mass distribution of whatever you are drawing – capturing the gesture, without getting caught up on details. Blind contour drawing is all about the details, except you are NOT LOOKING at the paper as you draw. Imagine your eye and your hand are attached. You move your eye slowly over whatever you aim to draw, following the outlines, the interior lines, any edge that your eye can perceive. If your line runs out, you back your eye and your hand back over that perceived edge until you can meet up with a line your eyes haven’t yet followed.

Contour drawings by the author.

Blind contour drawings always come out looking strange… proportion flies out the window (so to speak). An excercise like this makes you look very closely and in an organized fashion at an object, causing you to notice features you wouldn’t otherwise see. After these exercises on board ship, we went to shore and picked objects on shore to draw using the same techniques. The following day, we spent 3 hours on shore with a much bigger assignment, including drawing a map of the area as well as studies of a creature or a feature (plants, geological features, animals, etc.)

Field Journal page by the author.

Field journal page combining gesture, contour, and shaded drawings.

Sometimes, art history and art criticism seem to be about defining “good” art and “bad” art. Writings through the lenses of art history or art criticism at any given time are a pretty good window on what the issues are at the time the piece is written – and may have nothing to do with what was going on when the art was actually made. In the Western World, art has been somewhat removed from daily domestic life – art belongs in churches, museums, state buldings, the homes and offices of the wealthy. With the increase in public art programs and community arts initiatives, are we moving toward a greater inclusion of art in our daily lives? What would our culture look like if art were a part of most people’s lives? Not just as viewers or consumers of art, but as practioners? What if drawing were for everyone, not just children and professional artists? What if drawing were a valuable and intellectual/physical mode of inquiry in our society?

In Lucia Harrison’s workbook “Strategies for Keeping a Field Journal,” She identifies six elements of the intellectual work of drawing (my additions/comments are in parenthesis):

– Develops observational skills. Close study helps you explore how something is structured, how it works, or what it is doing. This is especially true of field studies – the objects being drawn are not dead – they are alive and engaged in being themselves – eroding, budding, nesting — they are active and careful observation can help you explore what they are doing.

– Requires active learning, engagement in studying the subject (this is not television).

– Enhances awareness of relationships among parts and whole. Helps you identify the key structures that make up an organism (even if you don’t yet know names for those structures)

– Helps synthesize ideas, connecting outer (text or lecture-based) and inner(physical/emotional) experiences.

– Communicates understanding, theoretical possibilities, insights, and feelings (all at the same time, without devaluing some aspects and prioritizing others).

– Builds a relationship with the subject to foster responsibility and caring (both of which are necessary in order for policy decisions to be made that could prevent further destruction of habitat, damage to biological diversty, etc.).

Beyond the assignments for these sessions, I made some additional drawings, including a gesture drawing done in color and a study of the ship’s rigging during a storm.

Gesture Drawing done in color. Algae bloom in a high salinity lagoon.

I drew this quick study of a small lagoon on a sand spit on Lopez Island. The very highest tides let saltwater into this small lagoon. Water evaporates, leaving salt behind. The water is so salty that only very specialized organisms can live in it. This type of algae is one of them. The lagoon smells absolutely horrible, but that very smell is a sign of the rich biological environment of the lagoon. The lagoon is edged with pickleweed, which I didn’t get to move close enough to see. The edges of the lagoon are a very sensitive ecosystem and walking through it damages the plants, so we stayed away from making a close examination of the pickle weed.

Another drawing that I did on the trip is a study of the rigging on the main mast of the schooner during a storm. It was too stormy to actually sail that morning. All the sails were down, but it was so windy that the ropes belled out from the mast. I loved the pattern against the sky so I decided to draw it, first in pencil, and then I did a version in color with chalk pastels. I’m not presenting this drawing simply as a work of art, but as a means of getting to know the rigging. As I was drawing, I realized that I actually knew the function of each of the ropes, even if I didn’t know the specialized vocabulary to name each one. The day previously, I had been assigned a sailing post: mainsail, topsail, starboard side. The sheet (rope) that I hauled on raised the throat end of the top of the mainsail. It was massive, and it was hard work, and I was just one person of the 30 people involved, each with their own task – and we all had to work together in order to get the ship moving under the power of the wind. It was awesome technology, and amazing teamwork. Drawing helped me think about the technology, the individual tasks, and the harnessing of the wind for a shared goal – plus the vulnerability of the endeavor. Experiencing the technology of the past first-hand is a luxury and a rare experience.

Lara Evans, too stormy to raise the sails, 2010