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Contemporary artists change perspective of Native American art

The museum will open its newest exhibit, “Duality: Contemporary Works by Indigenous Artists,” on Friday.

“Forty percent of Americans believe that Native Americans are extinct,” said Gregg Deal, Native artist and guest curator for the Longmont Museum’s newest exhibit.

Deal is a multi-disciplinary artist, activist and “disruptor” whose work is informed by his Native American identity, the museum news release states. He was invited as a guest curator for this exhibition.

The new exhibit is titled “Duality: Contemporary Works by Indigenous Artists.” To Deal, the exhibit is not about making a grand gesture but providing information and visuals to challenge the “perceptions that people have over what they think we are, how they think we exist, whether or not they think we exist,” Deal said.

Over the last 15 months, Deal and the museum’s curator Jared Thompson contacted over 15 Native American artists asking to display their work. 

“We didn’t want to do a white-curated perspective on Native American art, so we tried to set up interviews with all of the artists and ask them to talk about their artwork,” Thompson said.

Deal said he has had a show like this in mind for a long time but had yet to find a venue to realize his dream.

“Longmont is really who made it happen,” Deal said. “We’re (Indigenous people) still in a place where we’re trying to have a discussion about the value of Native people and the value of our stories and the value us telling our own stories. So much of the Native narrative in America is not told by us but told by somebody else and that includes in the greater art world … Longmont saw the value.”

The exhibit will feature contemporary art created by Native American and Indigenous artists, a genre of the art world that isn’t fully recognized, Deal said.

“So much of Native art is — through American perception or Western perception — rooted in commodification that it has specific things behind it like it has to be pottery or baskets or blankets or beadwork. It has to be all these textiles. There’s this rich, rich artistic practice within the contemporary Native art scene in the middle of an articulation of an Indigenous experience,” Deal said.

“It may be overt and it may not be overt. And when you consider Native artists to sort of be a unique group or subset of the art world that has been almost entirely dictated by the perception of our existence and not the reality of our existence, a show like this is incredibly exciting,” Deal added. 

According to Deal, what makes these contemporary pieces so unique is that the Native artists are creating their art on their homelands and not far separated from their identity. 

The museum will open its newest exhibit, “Duality: Contemporary Works by Indigenous Artists,” on Friday. It will be on display until May 14.

It will highlight the resurgence of contemporary art for Native people in recent years, a news release from the museum states.

Virgil Ortiz, Nicholas Galanin, JayCee Beyale, Danielle SeeWalker, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Natani Notah, April Holder, Gregg Deal, Chelsea Kaiah, Steven Yazzie and Deal are among the artists whose work will be on display.

The Longmont Museum is supplementing the exhibit with other events to allow patrons the opportunity to dive into the discussion further, said Joan Harrold, spokesperson for the museum. These events include performances, film screenings and talks. A list of events can be found here.

Macie May

About the Author: Macie May

Macie May has built her career in community journalism serving local Colorado communities since 2017.
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