Women have long been the creative force behind Native American art; however, Hearts of Our People is the first major exhibition devoted solely to their work. This groundbreaking and comprehensive project features more than 115 objects—including traditional textiles, baskets, beadwork, and pottery, as well as painting, sculpture, video, and installation art—made by artists working in the United States and Canada from ancient times to the present day. Hearts of Our People is meant to be a tribute to all Native women artists, their families, and their nations, past and present. It is their minds, hearts, and hands that have birthed their worlds, and this exhibition, into being.
The exhibition planning process began with a question: Why do Native women make art? Organizers chose to respond within three core themes: Legacy, Relationships, and Power. Legacy examines the ways in which Native women artists acknowledge their lineage, making works that simultaneously embody the experience of previous generations, address the present moment, and speak to the future. Relationships explores the concept of bonds existing beyond the human world that include animals, nature, and other entities the non-Native world does not often recognize as having volition and agency. Power encompasses works created for diplomacy and influence, to empower others, and for the empowerment of oneself.
You will see similarities across cultures and communities, but you will also see many differences. Native Americans are not a single monolithic group, and each tribe, nation, or community has its own unique culture, history, and present moment. Perhaps most important, each Native artist, like artists the world over, brings her own life experience, skill, and individual style to her art.
The co-curators of this exhibition are Jill Ahlberg Yohe, associate curator of Native American art at Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Teri Greeves, Kiowa artist and scholar. Special recognition goes to Dakota Hoska, Lakȟóta, research assistant. During each step of the curatorial process, they worked closely with an Exhibition Advisory Board to develop the major themes of the exhibition and advise on object selection. The board was also instrumental in determining the structure and content of the exhibition catalogue and related programming.
The Hearts of Our People Exhibition Advisory Board members include: heather ahtone, Choctaw/Chickasaw, senior curator, American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, Oklahoma City; D. Y. Begay, Navajo artist, Santa Fe; Janet Berlo, professor of art history and visual and cultural studies, University of Rochester; Susan Billy, Pomo artist, Ukiah, California; Katie Bunn-Marcuse, director and managing editor, Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art, Burke Museum, Seattle; Christina Burke, curator, Native American and non-Western art, Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa; Kelly Church, Anishinaabe artist and educator, Michigan; Heid Erdrich, Ojibwe writer and curator, Minneapolis; Anita Fields, Osage artist, Tulsa; Adriana Greci Green, curator, Indigenous arts of the Americas, The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia; Carla Hemlock, Mohawk artist, Kahnewake; Graci Horne, Dakȟóta, independent curator, Minneapolis; Nadia Jackinsky, Alutiiq art historian, Anchorage; America Meredith, Cherokee, publishing editor of First American Art Magazine, Oklahoma City; Nora Naranjo Morse, Santa Clara artist, Española; Cherish Parrish, Anishinaabe artist and educator, University of Michigan; Ruth Phillips, Canada Research Professor and professor of art history, Carleton University; Jolene K. Rickard, Tuscarora, artist and associate professor of the history of art and visual studies, Cornell University; Lisa Telford, Haida artist, Seattle; and Dyani White Hawk, Sičháŋğu Lakȟóta (Brulé) artist and curator, Minneapolis.
The exhibition will be accompanied by interactive interpretive “ArtStories” in multiple media, and a scholarly catalogue.
Organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art
This exhibition has been made possible in part by a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.