Art gallery at Indian museum in Warner plans show
"They Hear He Was Holy" by Marlena Myles.
"Three Sisters" is by Shirelle Tahy.
"Great Feather Dance" by Filfred Tahy.
Most art galleries have white walls, but the main wall at the Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum’s Contemporary Gallery is a deep, rich red.
Liz Charlebois, the museum’s guest curator, chose the bold color because she thought it would show the artwork more effectively.
The Warner museum’s first exhibit devoted to contemporary Native American fine arts opens next Thursday and runs through July 13. Most of the work displayed at Giona Sezoha G’dakinna: We Paint Our Land is traditional in theme but was created using contemporary mediums and styles.
The contemporary gallery opened two years ago in response to a request by local Native American artists for a place to display their work.
“The idea was to start local,” said Nancy Jo Chabot, the museum’s curator, “with artists who were friends to the museum, and let them be the voice that helps expand it. It has worked that way, very successfully.”
The art for this exhibit comes from as far away as Alabama, Minnesota and Akwesasne Mohawk territory in western New York, as well as from New England, and includes many styles and mediums.
Marlena Myles of Minnesota works in pen and ink, and also created an intricate digital image “They Hear He Was Holy” with an eagle dominating the center.
Monica Alexander’s “Mi’Kmaq Autumn” is a painting of people in traditional dress, done in a bright, contemporary style.
Chris Charlebois uses browns and blacks in his acrylic on canvas painting “Southern Straight Dancer,” a startling portrait of a man in traditional face paint.
A 100-year-old buffalo hide is the canvas for Chris Bullock’s abstract painting representing the strength of women.
Mixing native cultures
Filfred Tahy’s large painting “Great Feather Dance” contains elements of both Eastern and Western native cultures.
Tahy, a Dine’ (Navajo) from New Mexico, lives in Akwesasne, a Mohawk reserve in New York, because he married a Mohawk woman.
“He’s a Dine’ artist,” Charlebois said, “but some of the themes here are distinctly Six Nations-Mohawk. The sky dome portrays the creation story of the Mohawk people.”
Close examination of the painting reveals both Southwestern step patterns and designs typically found on Iroquois pots.
The colors in the painting also reflect the two cultures. Purple is Haudenosaunee; the reds, yellows and browns are Southwestern.
A large sunflower towers over the entire scene.
“It’s common in northeast iconography,” Charlebois said. “Haudenosaunee people are farmers.”
Chabot, Charlebois and Lynn Clark, the museum’s executive director, agreed that there is much to look at in this painting.
“We’re going to put a chair right in front of this one,” Clark said.
Not all of the work displayed is traditional in theme.
“There are many native artists who work in the fine arts realm,” Charlebois said. “It was my idea that we show some of the artists who don’t work in their traditional art forms but are still artists in their own right.”
Tammy Bucchino creates family portraits in colored pencil. Her “Autumn Leaves” is an abstract of repetitive patterns in oranges and reds.
Lina Longtoe’s photographs “The Lake in Between” and “Sunset at Chimney Point” would fit in nicely at any fine photography exhibit.
And one artist, Alex Alvarez, a Creek from Alabama, is included simply because his etched shells are so beautiful.
“The shell work is a little bit of a stretch to our fine arts theme,” Charlebois said, “but his work is so stunning that we thought it would definitely fit.”
The red wall does more than showcase artwork.
“I am Abenaki,” Charlebois said. “Even though not all of our artists are Eastern woodlands artists, I wanted a color that reflected Abenaki people.
“This bright red is similar to ochre, which is a color that’s really important to Abenaki people. It’s a traditional paint that we use.”
Clark emphasized the importance of color choice in all areas of the museum, which displays Native American art from all parts of the country. The design for each area includes culturally appropriate colors, she said.
Giona Sezoha G’dakinna: We Paint Our Land is open from next Thursday through July 13. An opening reception will be held Sunday May 4 from 2 to 4 p.m.
The museum is open daily from next Thursday through Oct. 31, Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
For information and a complete listing of events, go to indianmuseum.org.