Exploring Cape Dorset Art


Museum of Arts and Design - New YorkChanging Hands: Art Without Reservation 3/ Contemporary Native North American Art from the Northeast and Southeast concludes a cycle of exhibitions organized over the past decade by the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. These exhibitions have presented a diverse panoply of new work by Native American, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists from Canada, the continental United States, and the Pacific Rim. Representing both established and emerging artists, all three Changing Handsexhibitions have focused on art that points toward the future, presenting works by contemporary artists who embrace and take inspiration from cultural traditions while also expressing contemporary creativity and innovation.

Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 1 featured Aboriginal art, craft, and design from the American Southwest, including many of the most celebrated artists working in both traditional and innovative mediums. Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 showcased work by artists from the regions west of the Mississippi River, including Alaska, Hawaii, and northwest Canada. Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3 presents works created in the past seven years by Aboriginal artists east of the Mississippi, including the indigenous regions of the Northeast and Southeast Woodlands, up through the Canadian Sub Arctic, and recasts their art through the lens of international contemporary art and design.

Leah Shenandoah (b. 1981), Syracuse, New York; 
lives in Oneida, New York
Stars in Her Hair (Headpiece), 2009
Sterling silver, feathers,
porcupine quills, leather
Courtesy of the artist
Changing Hands 3 features more than 130 works, ranging from site-specific installations and video to sculpture and jewellery—approximately twenty-five of which were designed and created specifically for the exhibition. Following its New York City premiere, the exhibition travelled to museums in the United States, including the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY.


The works in the Changing Hands 3 exhibition at the McMichael, organized by guest curator Ellen Taubman in collaboration with Museum of Arts and Design’s Chief Curator David McFadden, come from a broad cross-section of indigenous cultures, including Native Americans from the US, and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit from Canada. Featured artists are presented without tribal designations, however, and the exhibition is structured around three significant themes that illuminate artistic, intellectual, and cultural resonances among Aboriginal artists:

Featured artists are presented without tribal designations, and the exhibition is organized around the following three significant themes that illuminate artistic, intellectual, and cultural resonances among Aboriginal artists: “Evolution and Exploration” examines how Native artists are reinterpreting their cultural traditions through contemporary perspectives; “Natural Selection” features a group of artists whose works respond to and investigate nature through the lens of contemporary art; while “De-Coding History/Historical Provocation” presents works that are often politically nuanced and contrast the realities of history with the mythology of cultural assimilation that has marginalized much indigenous art.

Michael Massie, pompositea, 2011Changing Hands 3 provides audiences with a sensory experience of the complex, multilayered work of contemporary Native artists as they confront cultural expectations, reclaim lost traditions, and create a new identity for themselves shaped by historical, political, and personal circumstances,” says Ellen Taubman, Changing Hands curator. “Through an extraordinary melding of past and present, and direct opposition between stereotype and tradition, the Native artists featured in the exhibition confront what Native art has meant and what it means today.”Accompanying the exhibition is a lavishly illustrated catalogue that includes essays exploring issues of identity, cultural disruption, creativity, the marketplace, and the future, by artists, critics, curators, and cultural and art historians. All three Changing Hands volumes underscore and expand the ways in which indigenous art and artists of our time are perceived, understood, and appreciated within the mainstream of contemporary art and design.

Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3/Contemporary Native Art from the Northeast and Southeast is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts. The exhibition catalogue is made possible in part with the support of the Smithsonian Institution’s Indigenous Contemporary Arts Program.


Exhibition Acknowledgements