About the Exhibition
“The Truth about stories is that’s all we are… Stories can be wondrous things. And they are dangerous.”
-Thomas King, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative
Visual art plays a role in creating and perpetuating stories. When art depicts people, the stories it tells can communicate the complexity and vibrancy of culture and identity, or sometimes it can romanticize, stereotype, and pigeonhole identity. Unfortunately, our history includes many depictions of Native Americans that convey stereotypes, racism, and oversimplification.
In this exhibition, I wanted to bring together the work of contemporary Native American artists who have countered stereotypes and celebrated complex, living and evolving histories of Native Americans. The vibrancy and resiliency shown in these works offer just a glimpse of how Native American cultures continue to thrive, be challenged, and evolve.
The works in this exhibition celebrate Native American living histories. The works unravel and counter stereotypes by creating new representations and celebrations of the complexity and vibrancy of Native American cultures.
Thanks for taking the time to look at this work, and thanks especially to the artists in this show for their participation and for creating this powerful work.
- Curator Jessica Walton
The Galleries hosted 6 talks with the artists of A(mend): New Narratives of Native American Life. Each artist joined us for a Zoom live event in which they spoke about their work and life as creators. The chat was then opened for the audience to ask questions. Each talk was recorded so that those who could not make it could still enjoy it. Thank you for stopping by and watching.
Cannupa Hanska Luger
Pamela J. Peters
Cannupa Hanska Luger
This is a Stereotype is made from archival footage juxtaposed with modern interviews, and woven together with an artistic response. We have gathered historical footage from the Institute of American Indian Arts Archive (Native American Videotape Archive - 1976) along side more current documentation, allowing a broader approach to addressing the subject matter. We have pulled from a wide range of sources for interviews including artists, scholars, and political activists representing nations from across the United States. We have documented many perspectives, creating a multi faceted dialogue, which will enrich the theme of the film and allow for the audience to build their own interpretation around the misconceptions of the Native American.
- This Is A Stereotype was created collaboratively by artists Cannupa Hanska Luger, Dylan McLaughlin and Ginger Dunnill
About Cannupa Hanska Luger
Cannupa Hanska Luger is a multi-disciplinary artist of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota and European descent. Using social collaboration and in response to timely and site-specific issues, Luger produces multi-pronged projects provoking diverse publics to engage with Indigenous peoples and values apart from the lens of colonial social structuring. He exhibits, lectures and participates in projects globally. Luger is a 2020 Creative Capital Fellow, a 2020 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow, the recipient the 2020 A Blade Of Grass Artist Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art and the recipient of the Center For Crafts inaugural Craft Research Fund Artist Fellowship for 2020. He is the recipient of a 2019 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grants, and the recipient of the Museum of Arts and Design’s 2018 inaugural Burke Prize.
I come from a community where everyone is called upon to use their talents to uplift the community as a whole. Someone might hang sheetrock, someone might sing. As an Artist, I’ve been asked to do “art jobs” for as long as I can remember. Perhaps this history pointed me to the path of “Art for Social Change,” which has become my professional practice.
My artwork originates in my understanding of the community I grew up in, the Lumbee community of Southeast Baltimore. It comes from curly headed youngins, country talk, soul food, and hip-hop; from Sunday School, homemade tattoos and row homes. It comes from culture class, eagle feathers, stories about knife fights told on stoops and laughter in the street. It is inspired by kinship traced through generations and the “meanness” that makes us all cousins and mutual protectors.
It flows from a desire to see our people healthy and prosperous-- living heirs of a rich legacy, the most recent chapter in the history of a proud and fierce nation.
I try to uplift our people in ways that are both honest and in a manner that they want to be seen, with Honor and Respect. I chose to do this through portraits in photography and hand-made artist books.
The men and women who were asked to participate in this project are all part of what I consider to be “my generation.” We are close in age. Many of us grew up together and despite the different paths we have chosen for ourselves in life, we are still close and see each other regularly to this day. Those who agreed to visit the photography studio were encouraged to wear what they liked best. We did several sessions with different groups of people. Each time, the entire group would stand behind the camera along with the photographer to encourage and coach the person whose portrait was being taken. Each person was given the opportunity to choose the photograph they felt best represented them. Text incorporated into the portraits, written by us, gives viewers a glimpse into our hopes for one other and the depths of ourselves. “The Exquisite Lumbee” book exists to demonstrate that, although we as a people run the gamut of skin colors, hair colors and hair textures, we do have a distinctive quality, character and style. We recognize each other. We are exquisite.
About Ashley Minner
Ashley Minner is a community based visual artist from Baltimore, Maryland and an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. She received her MFA (’11) and MA (’07) in Community Arts, and her BFA (’05) in General Fine Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art. She recently earned her PhD (’20) in American Studies from University of Maryland College Park. Ashley works as a Professor of the Practice and Folklorist in the Department of American Studies at University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she also serves as director of the minor in Public Humanities. She especially enjoys spending time with her family, listening to old music, and traveling.
Pamela J Peters
Pamela J. Peters is an Diné multimedia documentarian born and raised on the Navajo Reservation, in Red Valley, Arizona. Her tribal clans are Tachii'nii (Red Running into the Water clan) and born for the Tl'aashchí'í (Red Bottom People clan). She received a BA in American Indian Studies with a minor in Film Television and Digital Media from UCLA. Her first multimedia project, Legacy of Exiled NDNZ began as a short film that has expanded into an ongoing multimedia component about the history of American Indians urban relocation project that was highly influenced by the 1961 film The Exiles.
From her projects, her work has expanded to personal narratives of contemporary urban Indians in photography, film and writing in which she calls Indigenous Realism. Her mission is to combat the idea of the static, stereotypical Indian portrayed so pervasively in all media. She wants people to know that Indians are many nations with many stories. Pamela’s portraits stand against prevalent stereotypes of American Indians in popular culture. Having grown up on the reservation in Red Valley, Arizona her experience of Indian life was not reflected in popular culture. She made it her dream to produce authentic portraits and stories of the persistence of Indian life in contemporary contexts. As a storyteller, she develops photographic narratives that illustrate the real stories of American Indians within their communities. Her goal is to represent the beauty and complexity of their lives in their personal settings, and to humanize them in a way rarely done in mass media. Through her work, she intends to re-appropriate harmful stereotypes and share an Indigenous visual sovereignty with the world.
About Pamela J Peters
Pamela J. Peters is a Diné multimedia documentarian from the Navajo Reservation where she was born and raised. Her first clan is Tachii'nii (Red Running into the Water clan), which she uses to identify here photography. Pamela’s work captures not only still images documenting people, cultures and environments, but she also incorporates storytelling with video digital capturing that is completed with a unique and distinctive, creative style. Her creative lens explores the history and identity of her participants which she calls Indigenous Realism, that examines lives, placement with a nostalgic aesthetic in her photography images. She incorporates black and white photography to express her photography series: Legacy of Exiled NDNZ that explores the 1950s Indian Relocation program and Real NDNZ Re-Take Hollywood that evocates a studio-style portraits of Hollywood glamour of the 1940s and 1950s.
Weaving photographs is my visual art practice; with photographic processes and cut paper, I have taught myself a weaving tradition of Chitimacha basket techniques, creating both flat mats and baskets to make social and political statements. Cowgirls and Indians is a fresh interpretation of a fourteen-year old project, layering images from my collection, including: family photographs, Hollywood posters, antique posters, wild west show imagery, my Choctaw grandmother’s memoirs, Chitimacha landscapes, and my two personas: Cowgirl and Indian Princess. This body of work was originally explored in 2004, but with the recent American political landscape, I have found a new relevance with the imagery, questioning uses and misuses of cowboys, Indians, guns, women being taken and stereotyping.
The landscape photography featured in each piece is of Bayou Teche, the main water fixture on the Chitimacha reservation. The bayou and surrounding waters are home to cypress trees. The roots to these mysterious swamp trees grow into the earth under the water and then back up to breathe oxygen through the root, delicately balancing life with water, air and earth. This past December, I was taken on a fishing boat into a cypress swamp to capture the landscape images featured in this series. The Chitimacha basket weaving of the photographs gently reveal patterns from both Chitimacha and Choctaw baskets in my personal collection. Patterning morphs and changes into abstraction to push imagery forward and backward, creating a dialogue between the bayou landscapes and figurative photographs. Handwritten text on some landscapes are my grandmother’s memoirs re-written in ink by me. Her memoirs tell stories of what it was like to grow up in southeast United States in the early 20th century. The serene landscapes against these words reveal the timelessness of the landscape as it remains a part of the reservation and history. Mixing images with stories of struggle give a glimpse into a realistic history, symbolizing connections to land and the relevance of cultural preservation through protection and respect of land. Weaving these landscapes together with brightly contrasting Hollywood and pop culture imagery representing stereotypes of Native North America, questions the misconceptions of differing realities.
Like photographs, stories are a recorded history, merging time and memory repeatedly both orally and visually. I use posters and personas to explore American popular culture’s stereotypes of Native North America in Hollywood cinema, fashion trends and pop icons. Cowboy and Indian iconography are deeply rooted in America without recognition of the real history or the consequences of stereotypes. These generalizations are detrimental to the collective community and to the individual. Cowgirls and Indians explores these questions of identity, and the influence of imagery on global consciousness.
In 2013 I was invited to have an exhibition in Bristol and stayed. Stories were unfolding to me while circumstance created new realities. When I realized that Europe would hold me for longer than I would want, I begun to consider various relevant research, the most exciting was an old story that my Grandma Chilie told me long ago about the Choctaw Irish relationship and the Choctaw community gifting money to the Irish during the famine in the 1840s.
My Grandma Chilie is Choctaw and grew up in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. She is a nurse, storyteller, photographer, world traveler, basket collector and writer. She told me a few years ago, “Sarah, you are living the life that I always wanted.” I told her a few weeks
ago, “Grandma, I am more like you than any one I have ever known.” She agreed. Just then she pulled out a document that she had written in August 2014, called “The Choctaw Irish Relation.” I moved to Ireland in November 2014. At ninety-one she is recording her stories of family, traveling, love, and disappointment. The text that you see in this series is her words, re-written by me. I recount history in two different countries and different communities to bring perspective to an old story, turned legend which still holds social relevance with compassion and empathy. The story goes: shortly after the Choctaw were removed and displaced in Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears, word reached the community that there was starvation in Ireland. The Choctaw gathered funds and sent the money to Ireland as a gift to help. This gift had such a profound impact that the story lives strong in Ireland today. In telling one Irishman that I was Choctaw he got tears in his eyes. It is a recent past and still remembered. Learning of this story from my Grandmother, and to then move to Ireland feels like a closed circle. To re-write and re-record her experience is like breathing her life into her old home of Oklahoma. The Choctaw basket patterns are from the two baskets that she gifted to me in the summer of 2012 and the Chitimacha basket weave is consistent to the one that I bought from renowned basket maker, John Paul Darden. Weaving has been my most natural process of communication. While my grandmother was never a weaver, and I never knew my Grandfather, I am grateful that my Chitimacha community has given me the blessing to weave. In this series of work I am showing my gratitude to my ancestors for guiding my journey, bringing me to Oklahoma and for giving my grandmother an opportunity to share her stories.
About Sarah Sense
Sarah Sense creates photo-weavings with traditional Chitmacha and Choctaw techniques, her photography, and found imagery. Sense is from Sacramento, California and currently lives in Bristol, England. She received a BFA from California State University Chico (2003), and a MFA from Parsons the New School for Design, New York (2005). Sense was the curator/director of the American Indian Community House Gallery (2005-07) and catalogued the gallery’s history. This inspired her search for Indigenous international art, leading to life abroad when she moved to South America (2010) to research her first international project, Weaving the Americas, A Search for Native Art in the Western Hemisphere, a project which included over sixty interviews with Indigenous artists from twelve countries debuting in Valdivia, Chile (2011). Weaving Water, explores Indigenous art in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, debuting in Bristol, England (2013). While residing in Ireland, Sense made Grandmother’s Stories (2015), a collaboration with her Choctaw Grandmother and the history of the Choctaw making a significant financial gift to the Irish during the famine after suffering the Trail of Tears. Remember (2016) is inspired by motherhood, Irish landscapes and German family archives to reveal the complexities of forced and voluntary migration between Europe and the Americas. Her current work revisits the Chitimacha landscape with Cypress (2017) and again in Cowgirls and Indian Princesses (2018) which entangles a fifteen-year image collection of Hollywood posters, personas and childhood family photos with guns. Current research is on Native North American histories in England which will be explored with her first permanent installation in Plymouth, England (2020).
Art has always been a presence in my life. Some of my first childhood memories entail watching my father work in his studio and traveling to art exhibitions with him. Through this I gained exposure to many Native American artists who generously shared their advice of handling various mediums and their personal experience of being a Native artist in contemporary America. Over time I found myself asking questions about what Native artists were making and why. There are certain perceptions and expectations that confine Native American Art. Holding Native American art to these limitations has caused it to remain stagnant. I question why these limitations transfer to the gallery setting and why they have maintained their presence for so long.
Within in my artwork I have tried to divulge the step in which Native art has not gone, which is towards the reclamation of Native identity. Reclaiming identity means creating a fresh vocabulary to redirect a dialogue, not merely playing with the language that has been placed upon a group. In addition to forming a different discourse in Native art through video, performance, photography and installation, I am interested in challenging and stretching the boundaries of aesthetic and conceptual expectations. The focus of my work is to create and uncover new truths.
About Anna Tsouhlarakis
Anna Tsouhlarakis was born in 1977 in Lawrence, Kansas. She was raised by her father and her grandmother. She spent most of her childhood in Kansas and New Mexico until she permanently moved to New Mexico. Growing up, Tsouhlarakis was surrounded by artists and learned traditional work such as beading and woodworking. Her father, Naveek, was a contractor before becoming a full-time artist as a jeweler. She began making art by using scraps of copper or wood that her father would bring back. Other artists also helped guide her in different types of media and on what it is like to be a Native American contemporary artist. James Luna and other Native artists inspired her work through videos and installations. She then found her footing in the media she preferred to use which was not as traditional. Tsouhlarakis used to compete in powwow dances when she was young and had a traditional wedding. Art critics such as Mindy Besaw have stated that by doing the contrary of what is expected of Native artists, Tsouhlarakis' artworks help break stereotypes that confine many Native artists to do what is seen as traditional art. For example, this could be seen in 2004 video, Let's Dance!
At the ends of the bayous, in the heart of the Yakni Chitto (Big Country), the historic settlements and surrounding territories of south Louisiana’s Houma Nation are experiencing the frontline impacts of climate change. Coastal communities are facing rising sealevels, sinking lands, more active and strong tropical weather during overactive hurricane seasons and are bearing witness to what happens when a natural delta ecosystem is hyper manipulated, degraded, it’s natural intelligence disrespected and the rights of nature ignored. Cycles of injustice have induced a series of interconnected disasters; Forcing citizens to decide if and how they can remain and reclaim or do they retreat to higher grounds, relocating further north inside levee “risk reduction” systems, leaving the bayous and their ways of life, a way of life tied to the tides, the moon, the waters and the land, behind. These images reflect intergenerational moments Monique Verdin shared with her Houma relatives recognizing the power of water, adaptations, history to present connections and the ever constant force of dynamic change.
Burial Grounds : Pointe aux Chenes, Louisiana : 2000
Houma elder, Armantine Billiot Verdin, took a boat ride down Bayou Pointe aux Chenes (Point of the Oaks), 3 miles past the end of the road and the manmade canal called the “Cutoff”, to visit the place she grew up, where the burial grounds of ancestors sit between skeleton oak trees. Pointe aux Chenes is experiencing some of the most rapid land loss in the world, due to sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion induced by a maze of canals dredged through our territories, delta subsidence, levee infrastructure and natural resource extraction.
Industrial Balance : Grand Bois, Louisiana : 2004
Boys play in floodwaters in Grand Bois (Big Trees), a community in the heart of the Houmas’ Yakni Chitto (Big Country), along an old highway connecting the communities of Bayou Terrebonne to Bayou Lafourche, and a “shortcut” to the United States’ largest deepwater oil port, Port Fourchon. Grand Bois sits less than 2000 feet from an oilfield waste facility, permitted to treat “non-hazardous material” that has hazardous characteristics in open air pits and using injection wells, just north of some of the fastest disappearing land on the planet.
After the Storm : Grand Bois, Louisiana : 2008
A young Houma boy paddles his pirogue, a flat bottom canoe traditionally used by the indigenous people of the Mississippi Delta in front of his home, after Hurricane Ike. His family was forced to ring their home with sandbags and install a water pump to keep out rising floodwaters. The cycle of storms has proven how unpredictable tropical storms are and how fragile the Mississippi River Delta is. Coastal communities outside levees, like Grand Bois, don’t need a hurricane anymore, just a south wind to blow a little too hard, a little too long for marshwaters to cover land.
Anesie Verdin at Home : Pointe aux Chênes, Louisiana : 2008
Anesie Verdin has raised his home another 8 feet, since this photograph was taken, to adapt to higher storm surges.
About Monique Verdin
Monique Verdin is an interdisciplinary storyteller who documents the complex relationship between environment, culture, and climate in southeast Louisiana. She is a citizen of the Houma Nation, director of the Land Memory Bank & Seed Exchange and a member of the Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative, working to envision just economies, vibrant communities, and sustainable ecologies. She is co-producer of the documentary My Louisiana Love and her work has been included in a variety of environmentally inspired projects, including the multiplatform performance Cry You One, Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, and the collaborative book Return to Yakni Chitto : Houma Migrations.
This exhibition was made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Maryland State Arts Council. Thank you for your generosity and support.