TACOMA – The Washington State History Museum’s annual exhibit of contemporary works by Native American artists returns this summer.
July 15-August. 29, In ââthe Spirit Contemporary Native Arts Visitors can view 37 works by 22 artists from the Pacific Northwest and beyond at the Washington State History Museum, Tacoma Art Museum and glass museum. Admission is free at all three locations, the indoor / outdoor arts market and the In the Spirit Northwest Native festival, inthespiritarts.org.
The 2020 exhibit was online, as the museum was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The works selected for the 2021 exhibition include paintings, sculptures, beadwork, basketry, digital art, multimedia and textiles. Each work is accompanied by the artist’s declaration.
âAll art created by Indigenous artists is Indigenous art. Themes, media and technique can be shaped by multiple influences in the artist’s life, âsaid Laura VerMeulen, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, in her juror statement.
âPersonal aesthetics, cultural responsibility, wise teachers and family responsibility influence the works of this 2021 exhibition. They are precious works of beauty, resilience, humor and generations of Indigenous pride,â a- she added.
In his work with the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at Evergreen State College, VerMeulen was part of the team that initially conceptualized the In the Spirit arts exhibition and market as a celebration of the region’s diverse Indigenous cultures.
The artist’s statements often share their inspirations. Ursala Hudson (Tlingit) described her fluid and wearable woven art, “We are the ocean,” as “… a testament to who the modern Aboriginal woman is in this world, made up of all that came before her. We are a culmination of climates, cultures, moments, commitments and specific whims of millennia of memories passed down from ancestors. When we let a little of ourselves seep onto paper, canvas, panel , the fiber – the immensity of our infinite self finds tangible form. “
Two paintings by Gilmore Scott (DinÃ© Navajo Nation) vibrate with intense desert hues and repetitive geometric shapes inspired by DinÃ© carpet weavers.
âMy use of colors is strong and bold. The inspiration for my subjects are interpretations of how I see my culture, the DinÃ© (Navajo) heritage. Our high desert landscapes of the southwest, our day and night skies, stories taught about our tradition, âsaid his statement.
A small, precision-woven hemp basket, made in a traditional coiled technique, is a living response to the historic challenges of the past year. Artist Carol Emarthle-Douglas (Northern Arapaho / Seminole) shared in her statement, âThe Healing Hands Basket was created to reflect the year 2020. Raised hands are a way of thanking and offering prayers or a way to ask for help. The color red symbolizes power, passion and strength.
Each iteration of In the Spirit is made up of works submitted by artists for review through a blind jury process (meaning the identity of the artist is not revealed when the works are presented for consideration). Jurors for the 2021 exhibit included Todd Clark (Wailaki), Philip H. Red Eagle (Dakota and Puget Sound Salish heritage) and Laura VerMeulen (Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska).
As part of the exhibition, the 2021 In the Spirit Artist Awards will be presented in a free online program via the History Museum’s Facebook page at 6 p.m. on Friday July 15.
Artists who are new to the annual exhibit include Sonia Barry (Aleut), Jake DePoe (Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians), Ursala Hudson (Tlingit), Heather Johnson-Jock (Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe), Kathryn Miller (Spokane) , Othniel A Oomittuk Jr. (Inupiaq), Annette Pierre (Kalispel tribe), Ayanna Proctor (Piscataway Conoy tribe), Gilmore Scott (DinÃ© (Navajo), Stephan Smith (Quinault) and Charcoal Wannassay (Cowlitz).
Returning artists of IN THE SPIRIT include Peter Boome (Upper Skagit), Pá¸°ÈºELWEÈ½TEN (Charles W) Bloomfield (Pyramid Lake Paiute, WÌ±SÃNEÄ, Lummi), Suzanne Lynn Cross (Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan), Carol Emarthle-Douglas (Northern Arapaho / Seminole), Denise Emerson (Navajo and Skokomish registered), Sean Gallagher (Inupiaq), Lily Hope (Tlingit), Cynthia Masterson (Comanche Nation of Oklahoma), Shaun Peterson (Puyallup), Robert Upham (Lake Traverse Sioux-Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), and George Zantua (Tlingit and Haida).
“It is an honor to showcase these talented artists and bring their magnificent works of art to the Washington State History Museum for visitors to see,” said Molly Wilmoth, program manager at the Washington State Historical Society. âThere is so much joy in being able to provide an uplifting cultural experience in person this summer. It’s an opportunity for artists and our communities to reconnect.
In addition to working with jurors, Wilmoth and museum staff also work with an advisory committee to shape the exhibit and accompaniment In the Spirit Arts Market & Northwest Native Festival.
The free indoor / outdoor festival will take place on August 7, in collaboration with the Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass, and includes an artist sellers market, cultural music and dance, artistic creation opportunities and free access to museum exhibitions.
The Washington State History Museum will showcase other Indigenous arts and cultures starting Friday, July 23, with the As Grandmother Taught: Women, Tradition, and Plateau Art exhibit, from the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane. Visitors can learn about the work of three contemporary women from the Columbia River Plateau.
The art of these cultures reflects the traditional ways of life born from a secular and interdependent relationship with the natural world. See works by Leanne Campbell (Schi’tsu’umsh-Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Indians, NiMiiPuu-Nez Perce Tribe, Sinixt-Arrow Lakes, P’squosa-Wenatchee, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation); Bernadine Phillips (SpuqspÃ¡lqs-Okanogan / Wenatchi, Confederate Tribes of the Colville Reservation) and HollyAnna CougarTracks DeCoteau Littlebull (Yakama Tribes and Confederate Bands of the Yakama Nation, NiMÃiPuu-Nez Perce Tribe, Cayuse-the Umatilla Indian Reservation).