by Bunny Larson-Fraley & Marjorie Schwarzer
A gauge of success for any exhibit is how well it engages the community. With a good turn-out from its very start, community support and enthusiasm have been evident at Thacher Gallery’s current exhibition, Interwoven: Indigenous Contemporary, curated by museum studies graduate students in John Zarobell’s Fall 2015 curatorial practicum and open until February 14, 2016.
Interwoven: Indigenous Contemporary’s November 19 opening packed the house! Through events like an artist panel, a reception, art activities, and a community day, the artists whose work is on display have been able to reach their audience not only through their work, but through a deeper and more varied dialogue.
Artists Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, Katie Dorame, and Rye Purvis spoke at the Artist Panel, in USF’s McLaren Conference Center, the evening of the opening of this powerful show. These three provided an excellent variety of perspectives on the uneasy interactions between contemporary California Native Americans and the historic missions.
Hulleah discussed how she had initially eased people into an understanding of the topics in her art. But, she believes that if an artist remains continually in this introductory mode, the art will always start at square one. Eventually, it is necessary to move forward, into more meaningful work. Hulleah also mentioned the merits of studying traditional art, but again emphasized the need to move forward, artistically and culturally. Much progress is yet to be made in museums and in galleries, who both often play it safe and frequently stereotype Indigenous art.
Katie described Hollywood’s misrepresentation of Native Americans, as well as its alternate total absence of portrayal. As Katie said, “Hollywood is not the most reliable source for history”— a comment that drew knowing laughter from the audience. Growing up in Southern California, she saw Hollywood’s influence on American culture. Katie inspirationally described making the art that she would’ve wanted available for her 5-year-old self, or during her own childhood.
Rye is aware that her art will evoke a variety of responses. She sees this even within her own family. Rye’s art breaks down assumptions about the southwest and New Mexico. Rye also raised awareness for us about the local Native organization SNAG, which works with Native youth artistically, spiritually, and politically. You can check it out at SnagMagazine.com.
At the conclusion of the Artist Panel, Kanyon Sayers-Roods began the opening reception for the exhibit in Thacher Gallery, with a blessing and a welcome to Ohlone Territory. She raised this important question: “other people will always know something that we do not, but, once we learn this knowledge from them, how do we apply it and change our perceptions and our actions?” Food for thought indeed.
Community Day arrived that weekend. And for that day, we were fortunate to have talented contributing artists leading public programs. For example, visitors were engaged by exhibiting artist Geri Montano, as she led us in a printmaking activity. A fun time was had by all, thanks to Geri’s artistry and her gracious warmth. Following our art activities with Geri, a community meeting continued in the gallery, led by True Pride Music’s hiphop artists Tyler Peyron, Nataanii Means Witko, and Curtis Ray Yaz, who facilitated a strong dialogue on the ideas underlying much of the art in Interwoven: Indigenous Contemporary. Thanks to these artists’ intelligence and talent, the exhibit reached the community in a more comprehensive way.
As we students arrive back on campus in January 2016, you are again invited to come to Thacher Gallery and see Interwoven: Indigenous Contemporary, open though February 14, 2016. Come experience this beautiful array of styles presented by fifteen talented contemporary Indigenous artists. Experience the thought-provoking visual expressions and the strong bright humor of the descendants of those who lived here first.
Featured artist James Luna will speak at the closing ceremony, wrapping up this vibrant event, Thursday February 11, 2016, at 5pm in McLaren 251 on the University of San Francisco campus. Everyone is invited.
The convergence of talent for these events has been a blessing to USF, Thacher Gallery, and San Francisco. Bravo to Curatorial Professor John Zarobell and Gallery Director Glori Simmons. Many thanks also to the Museum Studies students and to all those who worked hard in the background to guarantee a superb show.
For more information on USF’s Museum Studies program, click here.