The term “Native art” should never be a path to a stereotype, and Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft has been hard at work debunking the myth of homogeneity in Native American tribal craft with its showing of “This is Not a Silent Movie: Four Contemporary Alaska Native Artists.”
The exhibit, on loan from the Craft and Folk Art Museum and produced in collaboration with Julie Decker, Director/CEO of the Anchorage Museum, will only visit California, Oregon and Montana, and is on exhibit at the museum in the Pearl District until April 19.
The sometimes heartrending, sometimes playful, always provocative works by Nicholas Galanin, Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Da-ka-xeen Mehner, and Susie Silook offer intimate views on Athabascan, Inupiaq, N’ishga, Tlingit and Yupik cultures and crafts from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Nome, Sitka and St.Lawrence Island.
A $7,500 Cultural Trust grant assisted the museum in bringing auxiliary programming to the event; that programming starts on March 12.
The most significant program, a showing of “On the Ice,” an acclaimed documentary of Arctic Native family life by Andrew MacLean, will take place March 30, 7pm, at the Hollywood Theatre, with discussion facilitated by Jensen Arctic Museum Collection Curator, Roben Itchoak, herself an Inupiaq Native from Nome, Alaska to follow.
The museum will also host the Illumination Spring Reading Series, a series of lectures by Native American authors, in March and April in conjunction with the exhibit. According to museum Communications Specialist, Lisa Radon, “The series presents writers with special ties to the area. The programs overall provide a local and regional grounding for the work included in the exhibition.”
• Poet and performer Trevino Brings Plenty, a Lakota Indian born on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, and Stafford Memorial Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Woody of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, will perform in tandem on April 10 at the Museum of Contemporary Craft Lab at 6:30.
• West Texas author Stephen Graham Jones, author of 18 books and most famous for his zombie novel, The Gospel of Z, will speak and read at the Museum of Contemporary Craft Lab at 6:30 on April 17. Jones is a Blackfoot Indian.
According to Shannon Planchon, the Trust’s interim director, who once worked as assistant director of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the show and events provide Oregonians with access to and education about the Native tribes living outside our state. “This exhibit brings a great diversity of Native cultures to Oregon audiences,” said Planchon. “Additionally,” she noted, “there is potential for increased visitation to the museum, including from outside Oregon, as Portland is one of only three stops for this traveling exhibition.”
Noted Curator of Collections and Registrar, Nicole Nathan, “This Is Not A Silent Movie provides a unique opportunity for the Museum to contribute to the conversation around contemporary art and craft practice for Native artists.” She praised the Trust for seeing the show’s potential for deep exploration. “The exhibition is a rich jumping off point, and the support from the Trust provides us with the means to produce a set of programs, discussions, and sharing of knowledge.”