In April, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) announced that this year’s Indian Market, the largest and most important Native arts market in the United States, would be postponed until 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. SWAIA has announced that it will partner with the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists to produce a virtual market this summer.
For this series, we asked curators and members of the Native arts community to spotlight five artists whose work they were looking forward to seeing at the 2020 Indian Market, with the hope that this can play a small part in making up for some of the exposure lost from the postponement of this year’s market. Our goal is to highlight Native artists who have continued to make important work amid these trying times. You can find past spotlights here.
Tahnee Ahtoneharjo-Growingthunder (Kiowa, Mvskoke, Seminole) works as a curator at the Oklahoma History Center and is a cultural advisor at the Wallraf–Richartz Museum in Cologne, Germany. She is also a member of the Association of Art Museum Curators, and has dual degrees in humanities and fine arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts and Harvard University. An ABD candidate at the University of Wales, she originates from the Southern Plains of Oklahoma. Tahnee strives to bridge the gaps of exclusion in American museums by presenting new narratives from the public perspective. Her preferred research collections include 20- and 21-century costume and textile designs, and Plains Woodland culture.
Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag): As a curator, it excites me to see visual artists invested in environmental sustainability who stay connected to the ocean life, forests, woodlands, and the abundance around us. James-Perry is not only one of the leading wampum artists alive today, she is also a trained marine biologist and expert ethnobotanist. She creates textiles and natural dyes from local plants and is mastering quillwork, an art form completely unique to North America. Hailing from Noepe, known as Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, her deep respect for wampum-making is evident in the meticulous craft and freshly inspired designs, from harvesting quahog (the clam that provides the purple and white shell beads called wampum) to processing it using skills perfected by generations. Perry brings the thriving creativity of New England coastal tribes to Santa Fe Indian Market.
Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota): Originally from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Her Many Horses makes his home in Washington, DC. He is a regalia maker, beadwork artist, and quillwork artist with meticulous attention to details — both technically and culturally. His knowledge of Lakota art practices comes from generations within his family and his own research learning from elders and archives. From micro-beadwork on historically accurate Lakota dolls to high-fashion attire of beaded stilettos, Her Many Horses brings Lakota aesthetics to all that he creates.
Cole Redhorse Jacobson (Mdewakanton Dakota): A member of the Tinta Wita, Prairie Island Dakota Community of Welch, Minnesota, Jacobson is a ledger artist, moccasin maker, beadwork artist, and textile artist. His work speaks to the Dakota lifestyles with a connection to the natural settings of the Woodlands with floral designs, geometric abstraction, and narrative Plains figurative art, spanning horse culture history to the lived Dakota reality today.
Monica Raphael (Grand Traverse Ottawa/Ojibwe, Sicangu Lakota, Huron Pokagon Potawatomi): An Anishinaabe quillwork and beadwork artist, Raphael creates intricate works of wearable art. Her work comes from many hours, days, and seasons of preparation of material gathering to complete the works of art that have been taught to her by her grandparents. Based in Apache, Oklahoma, Raphael creates exquisite birchbark jewelry with floral designs echoing the beauty of her forest homelands in Northern Michigan.
Katrina Mitten (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma): A self-taught artist, Mitten lives in Indiana, the historical homeland of Miami people. She beads unique, three-dimensional designs in beadwork and finds inspiration in nature along with her family’s oral stories. Her work includes purses, baby cradles, and even prams, which she embellishes with pictorial designs once only seen in decades past.