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.”
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.
This spring, the Center for Contemporary Native Art will present an exhibition featuring the work of Demian DinéYazhi’ (Diné) and Kali Spitzer (Kaska Dena/Jewish). Together, these artists will frame themes of gender, sexuality, and identity through the lens of their respective Indigenous cultural perspectives and traditional practices. Their work in the new Center will demonstrate their commitment to survivance, whichAnishinaabe scholar Gerald Vizenor defined as Indigenous self-expression in any medium that tells a story about an active Native presence in the world now. Survivance is more than mere survival—it is a way of life that nourishes Indigenous ways of knowing. Spitzer and DinéYazhi’ will create a transdisciplinary and multimedia space that reaffirms their dedication to cultural revitalization through language and social engagement—a contemporary and radical act of survivance.
SEPT 3, 2016 – FEB 26, 2017
This September, the Center for Contemporary Native Art CCNA gallery will showcase the revitalization of Coast Salish fiber weaving. Master weaver Susan Pavel will co-create the exhibition to demonstrate 40 years of Coast Salish weaving through master and apprentice relationships. “The call to weave resonates from a spiritual dimension that honors the quest to create,” Pavel says—and that call also requires that the knowledge be passed on. Trained by late master Subiyay (Bruce Miller), Pavel has trained several women who now also apprentice others. Through the hands of only a few, the art practice of Salish weaving is now a thriving cultural art form, having just celebrated its first international convening in February.