Sara Siestreem, Boy Huckleberry Basket
Sara Siestreem, Boy Huckleberry Basket, 2013, Red cedar bark. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Thlatwa Thlatwa: Indigenous Currents

Greg Archuleta, Greg A. Robinson, Sara Siestreem

OCT 17, 2015 – MAR 13, 2016

This fall, the Museum opens its new Center for Contemporary Native Art with an exhibition featuring the work of three contemporary Oregon Native artists: Greg Archuleta, Greg A. Robinson, and Sara Siestreem. These three artists bring forward a strong sense of the continuum of Native living cultures and artistic practices in these places we now call Portland and Oregon.

Greg Archuleta is Clackamas Chinook, Santiam Kalapuya, and Shasta, and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. As an artist and educator, he teaches about the culture and history of the Tribes of Western Oregon, including ethnobotany, carving, cedar hat making, Native art design, and basketry. “My art takes its roots from place, the old stories that tell how things came to be, and how the world was created for the benefit of the Chinooks of the region,” notes Archuleta. His cedar and basalt carvings on view this fall tie to places like the Columbia River, Clackamas River, and Willamette Falls—places that relate to the destruction of tribal community that came with federal termination of the Grand Ronde Tribes in 1954 as well as the Tribes’ rebuilding of community, identity, and cultural arts since the Grand Ronde’s restoration in 1983.

Greg A. Robinson is a member of the Chinook Indian Nation located in Bay Center, Wash. His work draws inspiration from traditional Chinookan art forms and is a tribute to the living cultures of the Chinookan peoples of the Columbia River. Working primarily in wood and stone, he draws inspiration and technical knowledge from the study of ancient works in various collections, including the Portland Art Museum. As Robinson remarks, “Chinookan culture has been under-represented for many years. It is my goal as an artist, and teacher, to promote the richness and beauty of the indigenous native arts of the Columbia River.”

Sara Siestreem is Hanis Coos and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Tribes from the South Coast of Oregon. Through her work, such as the multimedia installation DAYS AND DAYS on view in the exhibition, Sara illustrates the unbroken continuum of Indigenous living culture and knowledge production. The work connects with Sara’s educational practice of activating traditional weaving processes and sourcing of materials in her own tribal community. “Conceptually, I am pointing to our original and continual occupation of this land, our traditional presence as contemporary and sophisticated people, and lastly,” Sara remarks, “as a display of sovereignty, evident in the daily practice of following the seasonal round and cultural lifeways.”

Download Siestreem’s extended artwork descriptions.

Center for Contemporary Native Art

The Museum’s Center for Contemporary Native Art is a dedicated gallery for presenting the work and perspectives of contemporary Native artists. After its opening in Fall 2015, the Center will host two rotating exhibitions each year and feature a range of related programming. At the core of this Center’s mission is the Museum’s commitment to partner with Native artists in co-creating the exhibitions, interpretation, and programming for the space. The Center’s exhibitions parallel the institution’s larger curatorial vision of intentionally bridging the past and present through integrating more contemporary artwork into the Native American galleries. This approach allows visitors to take away a greater understanding of Native peoples as not only still living but as sophisticated, dynamic, and changing.

The Center for Contemporary Native Art is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and generous gifts from Mr. Mark J. and Dr. Jennifer Miller, Taffy Gould, Anonymous, and Exhibition Series Funders.