On view from September 9, 2023, through January 14, 2024, Never Broken: Visualizing Lenape Histories features recent and newly commissioned work by Ahchipaptunhe (Delaware Tribe of Indians and Cherokee), Joe Baker (Delaware Tribe of Indians), Holly Wilson (Delaware Nation and Cherokee), and Nathan Young (Delaware Tribe of Indians, Pawnee, and Kiowa) that express personal and tribal identity and address the Lenape’s violent displacement from Lenapehoking, the Lenape homeland which encompasses the region where the Michener Art Museum currently stands.
Curated by Joe Baker, Co-founder and Executive Director of Lenape Center in Manhattan, and Laura Turner Igoe, PhD, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator at the Michener Art Museum, Never Broken showcases approximately 50 artworks and objects from 10 private and institutional lenders. It will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with essays by Baker, Igoe, and Brooklyn-based writer Joel Whitney that will be published later this fall.
The exhibition interrogates prints, paintings, and decorative arts that incorporate imagery from Benjamin West’s painting “Penn’s Treaty with the Indians” (1771–72), appropriated by Bucks County painter Edward Hicks (1780–1849), depicting a treaty of peace between William Penn and Tamanend, Chief of the Lenni-Lenape Turtle Clan. The treaty was praised by Anglo-Americans as an agreement that was “never broken” and went viral in a pre-internet age, appearing on textiles, fine porcelain, and other printed material in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
Surrounding the installation of a carved and painted Big House post, central to the Lenape belief system, will be paintings by Joe Baker and Holly Wilson’s sculpture “Bloodline” (2015), which explore their artists’ lineage and tribal identities. Large-scale abstract paintings by Ahchipaptunhe, newly commissioned for the exhibition, respond to the geometric forms and shapes inscribed on Lenape pottery and decorated splint wood baskets borrowed from the New Jersey State Museum.
Nineteenth-century bandolier bags and contemporary beadwork by Joe Baker underscore the continuing legacy and evolution of Lenape visual expression and cross-cultural exchange. A video and sound piece by Nathan Young commissioned for the exhibition will explore the events of the Walking Purchase, in which William Penn’s sons defrauded the Lenape out of millions of acres of land in Eastern Pennsylvania.
To learn more, visit michenerartmuseum.org.