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Native Women’s Art Featured in Exhibit at Smithsonian Art Gallery

While having largely gone unrecognized for their contributions, Native American women have been and continue to be a major force within the Native American art tradition.

A new exhibit entitled Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists is attempting to close the gap. The exhibition will have its third opening in its national tour at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. The show is on view until May 17.

The exhibit showcases over 80 pieces of art that range from ancient times to modern day. A variety of media forms is utilized in the show, including textiles, ceramics, sculpture, time-based media and photography. Wall text, audio recordings, and labels are presented in English and the artist’s native language, making it a multi-lingual and inclusive exhibit.

“One of the most revelatory aspects of the exhibition for visitors is the realization that most Native artwork is made by women—including many of the baskets, ceramics, weavings and regalia held within tribal communities and museum collections,” Anya Montiel, curator of American and Native American Women’s art and craft said in a statement. “This exhibition centers these artworks into a richly woven presentation that spans geography, time and medium. It is perfectly fitting that an exhibition, which celebrates makers and their creative expressions in forms that are expansive and innovative, is on view at the Renwick Gallery, the nation’s premier showcase of craft.”

The collection highlights three main categories: legacy, relationships, and power. Legacy looks at how Native women artists acknowledge their heritage and speak to the future. The art in Relationships investigates connectivity and reciprocity beyond the human world, and Power explores empowerment of others and oneself.

Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists is organized by Jill Ahlberg Yohe, associate curator of Native American Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Teri Greeves, an independent curator and member of the Kiowa Nation. An advisory panel comprised of Native women artists and Native and non-Native scholars from a range of nations consulted the work.

Sources: Native News Online, 2/21/20; SAAM, 2020.

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