Arkansas museum spotlights American Indians

Curator Candice Hopkins speaks Thursday in front of a work titled Trade (Gifts for Trading Land With White People) by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith at a preview of the new exhibit “Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now” at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

Manuela Well-Off-Man was the curator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville when she first raised the idea of a survey of contemporary art by indigenous artists in 2014.

Two years later, independent curator Candice Hopkins and current Crystal Bridges curator Mindy Besaw joined her to begin developing Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now.

The exhibition, which features the work of 40 indigenous American and Canadian artists, opens today at Crystal Bridges and runs through Jan. 7. More than 80 artworks are on display, including paintings, photography, video, textiles, sculptures, dance and performance art.

Now chief curator at the Institute of American Indian Arts' Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., Well-Off-Man described the exhibition as "an excellent opportunity for broad audiences to experience the innovative, unique and personal narratives and processes native American artists have employed to confront the complexities of contemporary indigenous life and the contributions they have made to modern and contemporary American art."

Some of the pieces in the exhibition are part of Crystal Bridges' permanent collection. Others are on loan from various museums and from the artists.

One painting, Ozark (Shelter in Place) by Athena LaTocha, was begun in Northwest Arkansas earlier this year when the artist spent a week in the bluff shelters of the Pea Ridge National Military Park making drawings and lead impressions of the rock.

LaTocha, who was born in Alaska and is of Hunkpapa Lakota and Ojibway heritage, said her work draws on the cultural history of the land. "One thing that is important is being in the land, really being present there inside the landscape itself," she said. "Landscape is not merely something you look upon or look at from a window."

Art for a New Understanding is not confined to the museum's galleries. A time-based work titled Freeze, consisting of a large block of ice carved with the name Stonechild, will be displayed in the museum's courtyard until it melts. Created by Rebecca Belmore and Osvaldo Yero, the piece commemorates Neil Stonechild, a First Nations teen who froze to death in a field where he'd been left by police in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. After the installation melts, a time-lapse video of it will be displayed through the rest of the exhibition's run.

And in downtown Bentonville, a large-scale mural by Yatika Starr Fields is on display at the corner of Second and Main streets. Fields, son of Oklahoma artist Anita Fields who also is represented in the exhibition, will be the featured artist with a gallery show at Fort Smith's public art festival The Unexpected from Oct. 22 to Oct. 28. Crystal Bridges and the festival collaborated to ensure both exhibitions offered visitors a wide range of art and diverse perspectives, according to a news release.

In conjunction with the Crystal Bridges exhibition, a host of concerts, artist-led workshops, film screenings and other events is scheduled. The full calendar of programs is on the museum's website.

Admission to the exhibition is free thanks to a sponsorship from The Christy and John Mack Foundation. Tickets may be reserved online or picked up at the museum.

After its Crystal Bridges run, the exhibition will travel to Santa Fe, where it will be displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts from Jan. 25 to July 19. It will also visit Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, N.C., from Aug. 22 to Jan. 5, 2020; and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art from Feb. 22, 2020, through May 17, 2020.

Metro on 10/06/2018