Released May 08, 2006
SALEM, Mass.—A stunning selection of Native American art will be on view at the Peabody Essex Museum beginning June 24, 2006. Intersections, Native American Art in a New Light is a new exhibition drawn primarily from the museum’s collections and features more than 70 works, including never-before-seen objects, such as a 17th century bejeweled Incan dance crown and a David Bradley monoprint (2000). In addition to beadwork, textiles, ceramics, and drawings, the exhibition includes paintings and an installation by Nora Naranjo-Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo). Diverse cultures—from the Penobscot in the Northeast and Haida of British Columbia, to the Pueblos of the American Southwest and Incas of Peru—are represented. “Intersections focuses on connections—between the traditional and the personal, the present and the past, the Native and the non-Native, and Indigenous and Western media. It emphasizes the creative possibilities and the dynamic tensions that arise from aesthetic, cultural, and political influences,” says PEM guest curator Laurie Beth Kalb, who co-curated the exhibition with PEM assistant curator of Native American art, Karen Kramer. Artist Nora Naranjo Morse also served as a curatorial consultant. The exhibition, which covers the 1600s to the present, will remain on view indefinitely.
The artworks in Intersections, Native American Art in a New Light are arranged in three major groupings:
Metaphor and Identity presents objects and paintings shaped by narratives of the natural and supernatural worlds, for example, a spectacular 19th century Dakota baby carrier with images of Thunderbirds. Masks, dolls, and a drum speak to the role of ceremony, prayer, song, and play in the formation of personal and cultural identity. Contemporary works, such as “Self-Portrait as a Pojoaque Buffalo Dancer” by Mateo Romero (Cochiti Pueblo) and “Crow Dance” by Rick Bartow (Wiyot) reference metaphoric forms and images as explorations of a Native sense of being.
Continuity and Innovation questions the notion of purity or isolation in Native American art. Works include the museum’s remarkable Aleutian raincoat made of sea lion intestine in the form of a Russian officer’s cloak, and a late 19th century Victorian-style wall sculpture, beaded by an Iroquois woman in the Niagara Falls region. Two pieces of contemporary jewelry, a gold and coral bracelet with gemstones by Jesse Monongya (Hopi/Navajo) and a silver, gold, and fossil ivory pendant by Denise Wallace (Aleut) beautifully articulate the combining of American jewelry techniques, Native Southwest silversmithing, and storytelling. Artists in this section draw inspiration from many sources, including Western fine art and material culture, to constantly push their art in new directions. They show how Native American art reflects both a sense of being and a sense of “becoming.”
Icons and Politics addresses the question “What does it mean to be Native American?” The notion of a distinct “sense of being” that can be interpreted in the art of Metaphor and Identityis challenged here. Objects associated with popular perceptions of “being Indian,” e.g., noble warriors and Indian chiefs, are juxtaposed with pointed, often humorous, works by contemporary Native artists like Judith Lowry and Harry Fonseca. Outstanding examples of historic art from the PEM collection, including a painted buffalo hide, Plains headdress, Sioux beaded woman’s dress, and Two Grey Hills Navajo textile offer classic symbols of Native American art.
Visitors to Intersections will also enjoy All of My Life, Contemporary Works by Native American Artists. This selection of sculptures and paintings from the museum’s collectionembraces the experiences and worldviews of nine contemporary artists who call upon and reinterpret Native American painting and sculpting traditions that are thousands of years old as well as those of modern art. The exhibition is ongoing.
Intersections is funded in part by ECHO (Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations), which is administered by the US Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement.
Native American art collection, Peabody Essex Museum
The Native American art collection of the Peabody Essex Museum is the oldest ongoing collection of its kind in the hemisphere and is recognized internationally for the exceptional quality of its holdings. The museum continues to acquire important contemporary works by living artists of Native descent from the Americas. Through exhibitions, scholarship, public programs and interpretation, the Native American curatorial program provides a forum for exploring multifaceted aspects of identity, tradition, and innovation for Native American artists and their communities.