Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3


Evolution and Exploration
Many Native artists create new work on a foundation of material, technical, and formal knowledge that is a profoundly important element of cultural heritage.“Evolution and Exploration” examines how Native artists are reinterpreting their cultural traditions through contemporary perspectives. These are artists for whom evolution and change are organic to their artistic vision, and the past is integral to their creative explorations. Artists may take the most traditional of materials and transform them radically; ubiquitous glass beads may be radically reinterpreted using electronic components; or traditional birch bark may be fashioned into surprisingly new forms. By embracing their own histories, these artists confirm the essential links that join past and present to the future.


Natural Selection

Nature has remained a constant source of inspiration for artists since the beginnings of human culture. Not surprisingly, the world of nature, so closely identified with cultural and spiritual practices, appears in its rich diversity in “Natural Selection.” This section features works that are comprised of unaltered natural materials, harvested and prepared by the artists themselves, ranging from reeds and branches to birch bark along with found and manmade materials. Other artists evoke the physical characteristics and psychological content of geographies in works that represent in abstract form, places, and natural phenomenon such as rivers and waterfalls. Animals are also depicted both for their visual presence and for the symbolic and mythological roles they have played over the centuries. And the human figure is prominent in many works that deal with issues of fertility and growth, as well as in memorable masks that link the tangible and spiritual worlds.


Historical Provocation/ Decoding History

The works presented in this section, “Historical Provocation/ Decoding History,” are often politically nuanced to contrast the realities of Indigenous history with the mythology of cultural assimilation that has marginalized much Indigenous art. A number of the artists examine issues of cultural identity through the lens of contemporary societal and political values and imperatives. Other artists have focused their creative energy on communicating intensely personal narratives and autobiographies based on the hopes, dreams, fears, and angst of growing up as an Indigenous individual in a pluralistic culture. Gender roles and stereotypes, sexual diversity, and the power relationships that they manifest are addressed in these works, as well as the inescapable pressures of contemporary life in realms such as communications and new technologies. Finally, many of the works are presented with an unmistakable sensitivity to the pervasive power of wit and humor. Overall, the works in this section record, but also expand and challenge, the definition of what is means to be a contemporary human being.




Museum of Arts and Design - New York