Contemporary Native American Art

Power Chords to the Past by Norman Akers (oil, 74×68)

When people hear Native American art they often conjure up images of pottery, rugs and turquoise jewelry. But contemporary Indian art is so much more these days. And now a new exhibit on the walls at University of North Colorado Galleries in Greeley, CO, goes a long way to dispel all the usual stereotypes and thoughts on the subject. “Currents: Native American Forces in Contemporary Art” features works by seven top artists working today. The art defies any particular label. There’s everything from Oregonian Marie Watt‘s 10-foot-tall tower of blankets to Coloradoan Melanie Yazzie‘s colorful acrylics.

A personal favorite, Norman Akers, has several paintings in the show. Raised on an Osage reservation in Oklahoma, his oils mix disparate past and present universes to create surreal landscapes—ones that raise provocative issues, including what it’s like to live in-between cultures. These layered worlds call out for multiple interpretations.

Almost equally intriguing are works by prominent New Mexico artist Jaune Quick-To-See Smith‘s. (Is this a great name for an artist or what?) In her works she often combines paint and collage as well as abstract and representational images that result in arresting visual narratives. While the mediums and styles may vary, the works all explore themes of cultural identity in the 21st century—a topic worth examining and a show worth seeing. The show runs through Feb. 17 and is organized by the Metropolitan State College of Denver’s Center for Visual Art.

—Bonnie Gangelhoff


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