Alicia Marie Rencountre-Da Silva installation May 25, 2012 at MoCNA

Alicia Marie Rencountre-Da Silva’s installation “Song to Water” on view at IAIA’s Museum of Contemporary Art beginning May 25, 2012

Alicia Marie Rencountre – Da Silva’s new installation, titled Song to Water, was completed on-site today at IAIA’s Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is a contemplative piece set within a sculpture alcove at the museum. The artist created a willow hoop hung with prayer ties. Materials are provided for visitors to create additional prayer ties, which the artist will then add to the framework. During regular operating hours, the installation also includes a sound element: a collaborative song by the artist and musician Daniel John Pauli.

Also Opening Friday, May 25 2012 from 5-7pm: alumnI alumnUS, and documentary short film The Humble. The museum is located in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico at 108 Cathedral Place, one block east of the historic Santa Fe Plaza and directly across from St. Francis Cathedral Basilica.

Are You Ready for Beat Nation?

"Beat Nation: Hip Hop as Indigenous Culture" and stickers I found inside the catalog.

Tonight (Friday, February 24, 2012) is the opening of the exhibition Beat Nation: Hip Hop as Indigenous Culture at the prestigious Vancouver Art Gallery. The exhibition grew out of a smaller on-line  exhibition project in 2008. While I was at Grunt Gallery, I picked up the 2008 Beat Nation (paper) catalog pictured above. The project grew to include 27 indigenous artists for its incarnation at VAG.

Want to do some homework on indigenous music, skate culture, and street art? The website is a great web-based resource about the significance of youth indigenous culture. Glenn Alteen introduced the concept of the project very succinctly: “This site focuses on the development of hip hop culture within Aboriginal youth communities and its influence on cultural production.

There has been some criticism over the years by older community members who see this influence as a break from tradition and the movement of the culture towards a pop-based mainstream assimilation. But in Beat Nation we see just the opposite happening. These artists are not turning away from the traditions as much as searching for new ways into them. Hip hop is giving youth new tools to rediscover First Nations culture. What is most striking about this work is how much of it embraces the traditional within its development.”

It’s worth making a close perusal of the website before attending the Vancouver Art Gallery. It’s clear the artists are ready for a wide audience. It’s time for the public to be ready for these artists, musicians, and athletes who are making “pop” culture into meaningful cultural practice.

Are you ready?

Art Opening – Beat Nation (Vancouver, BC)

Skeena Reece, Raven: On the Colonial Fleet (2010), Digital Photograph. Photo: Sebastian Kriete

The place to be this Friday night (February 24, 2012) is the opening of the exhibition Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The opening reception takes place from 6-8pm at Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby St.).

The curatorial statement reads as follows:

“Beat Nation reflects a generation of artists who juxtapose urban youth culture with Aboriginal identity in entirely innovative and unexpected ways. Using hip hop and other forms of popular culture, artists create surprising new cultural hybrids—in painting, sculpture, installation, performance and video—that reflect the changing demographics of Aboriginal people today.

In Vancouver, the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Nations have been a meeting ground for urban Aboriginal youth for decades and, since the early 1990s, hip hop has been a driving force of activism in the community. The roots of hip hop culture and music have been transformed into forms that echo current realities of young people, creating dynamic forums for storytelling and indigenous language, as well as new modes of political expression. This movement has been influential across disciplines—similar strategies appear in the visual arts where artists remix, mash-up and juxtapose the old with the new, the rural with the urban, traditional and contemporary as a means to rediscover and reinterpret Aboriginal culture within the shifting terrains of the mainstream.

While this exhibition takes its starting point from hip hop, it branches out to include artists who use pop culture, graffiti, fashion and other signifiers of urban life in combination with more traditional forms of Aboriginal identity. Artists create unique cultural hybrids that include graffiti murals with Haida figures, sculptures carved out of skateboard decks, abstract paintings with form-line design, live video remixes with Hollywood films, and hip hop performances in Aboriginal languages, to name a few. While focused on artists working along the West Coast, Beat Nation brings together artists from across the Americas and reveals the shared connections between those working in vastly different places.

As signifiers of Aboriginal identity and culture continue to shift and transform, and older traditions find renewed meaning in new forms of expression, one thing remains constant: a commitment to politics, to storytelling, to Aboriginal languages, to the land and rights, whether it be with drums skins or turntables, natural pigments or spray paint, ceremonial dancing or break dancing. 

Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and based on an initiative of grunt gallery. Co-curated by Kathleen Ritter, associate curator, Vancouver Art Gallery, and Tania Willard, a Secwepemc artist, designer and curator.” 

Scholar and blogger Jessica Metcalfe posted a bit more information about the exhibition and specific works by artist Maria Hupfield, whose work has previously been featured on Not Artomatic. For new images of Hupfield’s work in Beat Nation, click here: Beat Nation and Maria Hupfield.

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"

“American Indian Day” Clip Art

John Feodorov, "Annoyed Indian Clip Art"

This September 28th is American Indian day. I’ve seen several different accounts of the call for this unofficial holiday – from Arthur C. Parker (Seneca) and Congress of the American Indian Association in 1915, to the Boy Scouts in 1916, the State of New York (1916), the state of California Assembly  (1968 and/or 1998). Regardless of the history of this date, some communities, native and non-native, are recognizing it with some sort of event.

How do I know? I’ve had a couple web-hits this week that resulted from google searches for the terms “Native American Day clip art,” and “American Indian Day clip art.” I was puzzled as to how people ended up on my blog with those search terms, but figured out after a few minutes that the search engine (Google) was coming up with those particular words as a combination from different postings. I write about performance art so I have included video “clips” as documentation of those performance art events. My whole blog is about indigenous art and I use American Indian, Native American, First Nations, and indigenous, etc., according the particular preferences of the artists and institutions addressed in my postings. And presto… a few people came looking for clip art.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what the other search results would be. Below is a screen shot from a section of clip art choices from one typical website. I intentionally blurred the edges (below) so that no one would actually use it as clip art from MY blog. Typically, the representation of an Indian in clip art is male, plains clothing,  an abnormally large or small head, or an abnormally puffed-out chest. Also common: canoes and teepees, eagle-feather headdresses.

Typical (and problematic) Indian-themed clip art sample. I blurred the edges intentionally.

For anyone genuinely in need of clip art for your American Indian Day event, I suggest finding an actual indigenous artist from YOUR GEOGRAPHICAL/CULTURAL REGION, and PAY THE ARTIST. Looking for suggestions for non-offensive content? Solicit a version of a geometric or floral pattern from beadwork, basketry, weaving, or rock art. If you need a graphic for your celebratory community event, consider that soliciting design work from local tribally-enrolled or tribally-recognized artists and designers helps build community relationships for the longterm. Clip art is all about short-term, shallow appearances.

I complained about the clip art issue on Facebook and was sent the image at the top of this post by artist John Feodorov. He is Navajo and lives in the Seattle, WA area. Annoyed Indian would be a great graphic for an American Indian day event that addresses the history of colonialism or the effects of stereotype (in any community).

 Don’t let clip art undermine your institution’s intentions!

John Feodorov, "Annoyed Indian Clip Art"

Need a laugh? There is a You Tube video about clip art. It is NSFW (Not Safe For Work). Only the first minute or so are relevant

Jolene Rickard’s “Corn Blue Room” at Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum opened the new permanent exhibition of their American Indian collection in January of this year (2011). One of their new acquisitions is Jolene Rickard’s multimedia installation artwork Corn Blue Room. The artwork was part of the exhibition Reservation X, organized by the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The exhibition travelled in the United States, hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. I had only seen Corn Blue Room in the Reservation X catalogue[1] and on websites. I was thrilled to get to see it in person.

I took some video footage as I walked around the space and I’m posting it here.

There is also a QuickTime panorama view of the installation of Corn Blue Room from one of the Reservation X installations HERE: (Links will open in a new window).

From NMAI's "Reservation X" website. The photo is in black and white, but you can see the installation was done in a white-walled room.

The new installation is in a very dark space. It creates a different effect from the white-box gallery installation I was familiar with from the Reservation X documentation. Is the new installation better? I would have to answer a tentative “yes.”

If you’re not already familiar with this work, you’ll need to know something about Jolene Rickard’s Tuscarora family and their history in the forcible development of American the electrical grid. Laura E. Smith wrote the following about Rickard’s Corn Blue Room:

The space of Indians within North American history has generally been a story of displacement. For the Tuscarorans, this legacy continued into the twentieth century when in 1958 the Power Authority of New York announced plans to flood approximately one-fifth of their reservation. Rickard’s grandfather, Chief Clinton Rickard, was one of the leaders in the ensuing demonstrations and legal battles, which the Tuscarorans eventually lost. Women’s activism in this conflict was most prominently displayed the day they sat down in front of the arriving bulldozers and by their subsequent assaults on the policemen who tried to remove them.25

For most Tuscaroran viewers, it was immediately clear that the photos of water, corn, power lines, and dams represented this struggle. The floor-standing metal frames recall the stance and structures of the electric towers, now present on their former lands. The wooden extensions and their post-like position reference the poles made of saplings that provided the structural support for a Longhouse, the traditional Iroquoian home.[2]

If you would like to know more about this artwork, read the Reservation X exhibition catalogue and Laura E. Smith’s article “Photography, Criticism, and Native American Women’s Identity: Three Works by Jolene Rickard,” in the journal Third Text. Citation information is in the footnotes.

I would say that this installation work is well-positioned to be part of the evolving canon of large-scale installation works by contemporary Native artists. The installation of Corn Blue Room as part of the permanent exhibition at Denver Art Museum makes it physically accessible for the long-term, in addition to a web-based presence for over ten years.

[1] The Reservation X catalogue, written by Gerald McMaster and published by University of Washington Press (1999), is full of meaty essays and is standard reading in the field of contemporary Native American art. It is out of print, but used copies can still be obtained.

[2] Laura E. Smith, “Photography, Criticism, and Native American Women’s Identity: Three Works by Jolene Rickard,” Third Text, (vol. 19, issue 1, January 2005): 64.

Performance Documentation: Vestige Vagabond

Maria Hupfield and Charlene Vickers, Vestige Vagabond, performance, August 2011

This blog post presents performance documentation from a performance I attended on August 20th, 2011. Vestige Vagabond was a public art performance by artists Maria Hupfield and Charlene Vickers. It was presented in conjunction with the exhibition Counting Coup at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The piece has been developing over the past couple years, but the locale for it’s most recent presentation is particularly significant.[1] The version I witnessed took place in the midst of SWAIA’s[2] annual Santa Fe Indian Market. The event has been held every year since 1922. The streets around the central plaza become an open-air market that attracts indigenous North American artists to sell their work. Indian Market brings an estimated 80,000 people to Santa Fe.[3]

Santa Fe Indian Market, August 2011.

Artists Maria Hupfield and Charlene Vickers described their intentions this way: In this performance, the value of Native American culture, ingenuity, function, aesthetics, and sharing will be emphasized through a series of new and unexpected objects and actions in a public interactive open market setting – under the museum’s portal.[4]

I saw the performance on the first day of Market, August 20th. It was repeated the following day. All the photographs accompanying this article are from this first performance. The heart of Vestige Vagabond is the street-market dynamics played out in a cultural market, where artists/artisans lay their handmade objects on a table for the perusal of buyers. Hupfield and Vickers began their performance with arrival and set-up, like the hundreds of artists at market, by pulling roller bags behind them, unpacking, and laying out objects on a market table. Ordinarily, there is a look-but-don’t-touch-without-permission standard for behavior at market. Many of the art objects for sale come with prices in the tens-of-thousands. The performance artists overcame audience reticence by demonstrating the use of some of the objects, such as the braids/Walkman/rock apparatus, and then passing the object to a bystander. They never gave verbal instructions and only spoke to each other. As the performance progressed, people in the audience became braver about exploring and using the objects being passed around. At the end of the performance, the artists wiped their sweaty faces with the napkins printed to resembled Canadian bills.[5]Then they gathered up and arranged all the objects in an attractive sales display, positioning themselves behind the table, much like the artists selling their work at the market.

I did not get to see the second performance, on Sunday, August 21st. Hupfield sent me the following statement about changes she and Vickers made to the second performance:

For the second day we wanted to find ways to help the santa fe crowd break through their role as passive observers and get them really involved. To help with this we started the performance by hand-printing two signs that read “not for sale” and “demos here now.” We also integrated a few more staged style actions together and responded directly to individuals in the crowd. For example we singled out Amber Dawn (Bear Robe) to wear our fringe gloves, distributed and boxed with the beads and did an impromptu honor dance with the tea cup for a mother who was carrying her child on her back. It was good times!

Welcome sign describing the performance outside of Museum of Contemporary Native Art.

The artists arrive.

Set-up begins.

Set-up continues.

Hupfield looks into a box with an eyepiece before handing it to someone in the audience.

The audience begins examining the objects.

Hupfield with rock, walkman.

The walkman, with braids and a rock attached, plays language lessons in indigenous languages.

Charlene Vickers presents a second walkman. This one played pow wow music.

A birch bark basket with wooden nickels and a magnifying lens.

Paper napkins printed to look like Canadian bills were kept in the back pockets of both artists.

The display table. The large squishy vinyl cylinder on the right corner of the table is huge pony bead.

The display table at the end of the performance.

Printed napkins used in the performance.

Artist Biographies:

Maria Hupfield works across disciplines to engage in intersecting points of dialogue between Western and non-Western visual representations and philosophies. Her practice evidences the body as a site of resistance, agency and social engagement. She is a member of Wasauksing First Nation and is of Anishnaabe/Ojibway Heritage. A graduate of the MFA program at York University, Maria holds a BA Specialist in Art and Art History from the University of Toronto and Sheridan College. Hupfield lives and works in New York City.

Charlene Vickers is an Anishinaabe artist living and working in Vancouver. She graduated from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1994 and Simon Fraser University, Critical Studies in 1998. Born in Kenora, Ontario and raised in Toronto. Her art explores ancestry and living in urban spaces.[6]

Related Blog Entries: Native Performance Art and Performance Theory Rebecca Belmore: Vigil

[1] There is a brief video clip from a 2010 performance of Vestige Vagabond on You Tube at:
[2] SWAIA stands for Southwestern Association for Indian Art
[3] For more of the history of SWAIA and Indian Market, see
[4] This description was posted to an Events page on Facebook prior to the performance. It also appeared on a signboard in front of the museum.
[5] The eligibility of Native artists from Canada is a recent change to Indian Market rules.
[6] Artist Biographies were provided by the artists.