"On Fertile Ground" puts spotlight on Native artists from the Midwest

Categories: Art
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Julie Buffalohead: They Paint Horses, Don't They?
All My Relations Gallery sets out to showcase the wealth of talent coming from American Indian artists living in Minnesota and our neighboring states with a new exhibition called "On Fertile Ground: Native Artists in the Upper Midwest." Intended to take place annually over three years, each exhibition will highlight 15 different artists who live in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This year's show makes a strong case for how many excellent Native artists are working in this area in a variety of mediums, including painting, drawing, sculpture, bead work, textiles, and jewelry.

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Jim Denomie: An Eye for an Eye
The show highlights several artists who are already well known in the Twin Cities community. Jim Denomie, who has been featured a number of times at All My Relations, offers some of his darkly comic paintings. In If You Sit by a River Long Enough, the Body of Your Enemy Will Come Floating By (Buddhist Proverb), a blond water ski-er breezes past farmers, sun tanners, and Native hunters in an absurdist anachronistic work. Then in An Eye for an Eye, Denomie shows a gruesome image of a man having his eye eaten out by a crow. A screwdriver sticks out from his nipple, and straw is stuffed in his mouth. In the background, a ghostly scarecrow hovers in the distance.
 
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Alexandra Buffalohead: Self Portrait, Skinless 1, Skinless 2
Julie Buffalohead, who has a solo show coming up at Bockley Gallery this fall, also has several works in the exhibit, giving us a taste of her use of dreamlike scenarios with colorful animals doing human-like things. Buffalohead's anthropomorphic creatures play out 21st-century anxieties, like a rabbit hanging out on stilts in order to take a photograph. At times playful, they have an undercurrent of yearning to break free from everyday tasks.

One of the highlights of the show comes from recent Augusburg graduate Alexandra Buffalohead, whose chicken-wire sculptures hang like ghosts in front of a turquoise wall. Two of the pieces, Skinless 1 and Skinless 2, show horned figures hanging above the floor. In addition to their chicken-wire armature, the figures have heart shapes inside their chests. Though they are called skinless, the shape of these figures look more like wire stand-ins for skin, with the bodies missing bones and muscle mass. They droop, kept alive only by whatever soul keeps pushing them forward through their hearts. A third figure, called Self Portrait, is the same as the other two with the addition of brightly colored nylon wrapped around the armature. The third piece makes a gesture of seeking to cover up what's inside, perhaps, or putting on a show, even if that presentation ignores the needs of what is happening inside.

Another compelling group of works comes from Monte Yellow Bird, whose ledger-paper pieces use humor to address ways in which Native people have been presented as "the other" throughout history. In Watch the Birdie, Yellow Bird depicts a white photographer hunched behind an accordion camera. He holds up a yellow bird for two Native people in traditional dress to focus on as they have their portrait taken. Two other Native people look on, bemused. Another ledger-paper piece shows a romanticized image of a young Native woman on a horse holding a parasol, surrounded by decorative flowers and a bright, setting sun. Through these works, Yellow Bird offers commentary on the ways in which Indigenous people have been shown as objects for the colonial imagination. 
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James Star Come Out
There are some wonderful crafts in the show, such as a fantastic silver belt ornamented with intricate bead work by Wendy Boivin. Dennis White has some gorgeous textile pieces as well. James Star Come Out has a show-stopping beaded saddle, complete with mirrors and fringe. In all, it's a great showing of a huge variety of different Native artists.

IF YOU GO:

"On Fertile Ground: Native Artists in the Upper Midwest"
Through November 15
All My Relations Gallery
1414 E. Franklin Ave. S., Minneapolis

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All My Relations Gallery

1414 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, MN

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