The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture exhibit “Into the Future: Culture Power in Native American Art” explores the diverse ways in which traditional and contemporary Native American artists interpret their world. Opening last July and featuring approximately 100 objects by more than 50 artists, the exhibit includes media ranging from clothing, jewelry, pottery and sculpture to weaving, photography, video and comics. According to the exhibition’s curator Valerie Verzuh, this expansive exhibit has been well-received by the public and continues to draw many visitors.
Clothing and wearable art are an important part of the show. Of note is the elaborate Southern Buckskin competition dress and accessories created by Jhane Myers (Comanche/Blackfoot) along with family and friends.
Ecological destruction and the belief of the interconnectedness of all living things is the subject of several works in the show. Artists including Jason Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo), Fred Kabotie (Hopi) and Diego Romero (Cochiti) address the revolt and reoccupation of the Spanish expeditions. Old objects are placed next to new ones to illustrate the differing ways in which tradition and culture are viewed.
Offering a humorous twist, the comic book is the chosen medium for some contemporary artists. Among those drawn to comic books are Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nisga’a), Jonathan Loretto (Cochiti/Walatowa) and Theo Tso (Las Vegas Paiute). Arigon Starr’s piece “Pueblo Jones and the Great Paris Auction” (2016), a digital reproduction of a comic page, refers to a real-life Native American artifact hunter.
“This piece is a comment about sacred Native American art that’s been stolen or sold without permission from a tribe and put up for auction,” explains Starr (Kickapoo). “It’s happening way too much today.”
Among the contemporary sculptural works on display is David Bradley’s (Chippewa) provocative piece “Land O Bucks, Land O Fakes” (2016) which features a picture of a Native woman holding money between her hands on what looks like a one-pound package of butter.
“Power resides both in the mind of the viewer and in the objects themselves,” says Verzuh. “Having the authority to control objects and their meaning correlates with the power to define and control personal and cultural identities.”