Part of the mission of IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts is to acquire works that increase public understanding and appreciation of contemporary Native history and culture. The museum has amassed a collection of close to 7,500 pieces created by hundred of Native artists.
In the show “New Acquisitions: 2011-2017,” collections registrar John Joe (Navajo) showcases a small sampling of the more than 700 works that were accepted into the permanent collection during that time frame.
“As I looked at images of pieces in our collection, I thought about curating an exhibit of work that has a minimal sense of design,” Joe explains.
“While a few pieces in the show reference Native American issues, most of the pieces do not.”
Joe, a photographer who is interested in nurturing the study of photography among Native American artists, included photos by John Hagen (Aleut/Inupiaq) in the show. A landscape photographer from Alaska who explores place and how it relates to identity, Hagen completed an artist residency at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA).
Also on exhibit are several powder-coated stainless steel sculptures by award-winning artist Tony Lee (Navajo), who earned his associate of fine arts degree at IAIA. Lee was an assistant to renowned sculptor Allan Houser from 1989 until Houser’s death in 1994.
It was during a 2013 exhibit by IAIA graduating students that Joe discovered Brandee Caoba (Ohkay Owingeh), an artist, independent curator, puppet maker and production designer. Caoba’s mixed media on panel work, in which a human dons an animal mask, is on display. According to Caoba’s artist statement, her practice “explores primal being, the collective unconscious, absence, shadows and the transformative power of masks and mythologies.”
“We always look at the work created by IAIA’s graduating class and consider making a purchase of one or two pieces we really like,” Joe adds. “We’ve been very fortunate that a number of artists have donated work to the museum.”
While many pieces within IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts’ collection have been created by alumni and alumnae of the institute, affiliation with IAIA is not a requirement for inclusion.