Jacquie Stevens (1949-2021), Hōca̜k Nī̜šoc Haci (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska), Woodweave Bowl, 1996. Made in O’gah’poh geh Owingeh (Santa Fe, New Mexico).
Level 2, Gallery K229
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“When I am gone and taken back into the earth, I feel good that those things are there to represent me, stand up for me, or speak for me while I am gone.” —Richard Zane Smith (Wyandot Nation of Kansas)
For the contemporary Indigenous artists featured in Knowledge Beings, clay is a living medium that gives form to knowledge about land, ancestors, language, and identity. The artists experiment with artistic traditions while carrying forward generations of expert skill, and their own words—written and spoken—convey the Indigenous artistry and values behind each work, or “knowledge being.”
Installed in an immersive gallery designed by the award-winning architect Chris Cornelius (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin), the exhibition comprises 13 works by 13 artists to represent the number of annual moons and the cyclical sense of time that brings Indigenous beings from the past, present, and future into close relation. Works on view include the delicate Woodweave Bowl by Jacquie Stevens (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska), combining hand-coiled clay and basket weaving; the futuristic Cochiti Chac Mool Bowl by Diego Romero (Cochiti Pueblo), featuring heroicizing and humorous depictions of Maya astronauts; and the seminal Totems sculptures by Nora Naranjo Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo), inspired by the rock art of her Puebloan ancestors.
All the featured artists are from diverse cultures and sovereign nations within the present-day United States: Frederica Antonio (Acoma Pueblo); Chase Kawinhut Earles (Caddo Nation); Anita Fields (Osage); Randy Nahohai (Zuni Pueblo); Les Namingha (Hopi-Tewa and Zuni Pueblo); Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo); Russell Sanchez (San Ildefonso Pueblo); Richard Zane Smith (Wyandot Nation of Kansas); Mary Thompson (enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians); and Lonnie Vigil (Nambé Pueblo).
Knowledge Beings is co-curated by Chris Cornelius (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin), chair of Architecture and Planning at the University of New Mexico, and Ruthie Dibble, curator at The Chipstone Foundation, with guidance from the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Native Initiatives Advisory Group.
Nora Naranjo Morse Kha’p’o Owingeh (Santa Clara Pueblo, b. 1953), Totems, 2005–18. Made on Kha’p’o Owingeh tribal land, New Mexico.
Hand-coiled Kha’p’o and micaceous clay tempered with volcanic ash, with acrylic paint, natural clay slip, Bondo and other adhesives, and mesh tape. The Chipstone Foundation, 2021.24.a–c. Photo by Gavin Ashworth