Danforth Art Native American Art Brings Indigenous Voices Framingham


FRAMINGHAM – A timely exhibit, “Indigenous Voices in Contemporary Art,” features striking works by Native American artists, including Framingham State Yellow alumnus Quick-to-See Smith, who celebrate the rich cultures and traditions of the occupiers origin of this country and the urgent need to right the injustices of the past.

Curated by Rachel Passannante, Director of Collections at Danforth, the exhibition showcases the current work of Native American artists who use revered folk tales and symbols to honor the rich and varied traditions of their diverse peoples.

Rather than portraying Native American art as artifacts from a past poorly represented by Hollywood and popular culture, she selected works that give Native artists authentic voices too rarely heard today.

At the Danforth Art Museum, part of the  "Indigenous voices in contemporary art" exhibition, October 25, 2021.

“Contemporary Indigenous artists are such an important part of the art world today, but they are often overlooked,” Passannante said. “Their art is rich in stories, meanings and experiences. It’s great to bring these artists and these pieces together to tell their stories to our visitors.

Visitors will see striking visual art and pottery from the museum‘s permanent collection. A long mural chronicles the “devastating” losses of identity, land and political rights suffered by indigenous peoples since their first contact with Europeans in the 1400s.

Duane Slick, a Meskwaki artist who teaches art at the Rhode Island School of Design, presents a series of dreamlike encaustic paintings on linen titled “The Mind / Body Problem”.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Flathead Reservation, Montana, Sovereign Nations, 2002 Mixed media, oil on canvas.  Of "Indigenous voices in contemporary art" at Danforth.

Yellow Quick-to-See Smith’s intricate works on display merge Indigenous symbols and myths with contemporary imagery to condemn cultural abuse, historic Native American oppression, and environmental destruction.

A member of the Salish and Kootenai tribes, she graduated from Framingham State College in Arts Education in 1976 and has shown her work in over 50 solo and group exhibitions.

While some of the artwork in the exhibit makes reference to unknown Native American symbols or myths, Passannante hopes that “visitors really look at each piece, notice the intricacies of each piece, and think about what those images might mean to them. both for the artist and the viewer “.

Yellow Quick-to-See Smith’s “Sovereign Nations” multimedia article features dozens of stars likely suggesting once-self-governing Native American tribes under the caustic phrase “Hellgate.” Her vividly colored “40,000 Years” lithograph features a happily jumping rabbit, inspired by a rock sculpture she saw in Canada and which she says indicates American history dates back 400 centuries, to the arrival of the first nomadic people on the North American continent.

His most complex work on display in his 1996 “Survival” series features the characters Coyote and Badger from a folk tale juxtaposed with a steaming locomotive depicting the destructive impact of colonialism.

Yet their postures suggest that their friendship and resilience will help Native Americans survive the cultural disruption caused by land theft and ongoing marginalization.

Duane Slick, Meskwaki, "Portrait of To-Kan-Was-Te," 2005 Encaustic on canvas

Pottery by four artisans represents an art form that preserves creative traditions dating back thousands of years.

Exercising skills known to their ancestors and passing them on to the next generation, these four women kept a vital cultural practice alive.

Passannante expressed the hope that visitors “gain a new appreciation for contemporary Native American art, its diversity and its ability to express so much in a canvas, a work”.


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