Shelley Niro: 500 Year Itch — the first major retrospective of work by multimedia artist Shelley Niro (Six Nations Reserve, Bay of Quinte Mohawk, Turtle Clan, b. 1954) — is on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York. For more than 50 years, Niro has been creating art building upon Kanyen’kehá:ka (Mohawk) philosophies, deep understandings of history, and a woman-centered worldview.

Accessible, humorous, and peppered with references to popular culture, Niro’s art delves into the timeless cultural knowledge and generational histories of her Six Nations Kanyen’kehá:ka community to provide purpose and healing. In her practice, she works across a variety of artistic mediums, including painting, photography, mixed-media, and film.

Shelley Niro employs humor and wit to probe the joy, sorrow and contradictions of Indigenous existence, and she delivers hard truths with a smile. Her inclusion of Native people, including family members, in much of her work, allows us to see Indigeneity in its complexity while also addressing themes of empowerment, matrilineal kinship and dispossession. The museum is very pleased to celebrate Niro’s art through this exhibition.

Cynthia Chavez Lamar (San Felipe Pueblo, Hopi, Tewa, Navajo), director of the National Museum of the American Indian

On Saturday, June 17, at 1pm (ET), the museum will host a special screening of Niro’s latest feature-length film, Café Daughter (Canada, 2023). The film is based on a play by Kenneth T. Williams about retired Canadian Senator Lillian Dyck, the first Aboriginal senator and first Chinese senator. The screening will be followed by a conversation with Niro.

The exhibition is curated by David Penney, the National Museum of the American Indian’s associate director for museum research, scholarship, and public engagement; Melissa Bennett, senior curator of contemporary art at the Art Gallery of Hamilton; and Greg Hill, multidisciplinary artist, curator, and art consultant.

Shelly Niro: 500 Year Itch is on view through January 1, 2024, in New York City.

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Organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Hamilton with the National Museum of the American Indian and with curatorial support from the National Gallery of Canada. Major support for the project is provided by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Terra Foundation for American Art, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative Pool. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.