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Article

Canadian First Nations (Oji-Cree), 20th century, female.

Born 28 March 1971, in Yorkton (Saskatchewan).

Installation artist, ceramicist, photographer, sculptor, printmaker.

KC Adams studied at Concordia University, in Montreal, Quebec, where she received her BFA in Studio Arts in 1998. Her artistic practice was further developed through artists’ residencies in Canada, at institutions in Banff, Charlottetown and Winnipeg. During her ...

Article

Native American (Choctaw), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1959, in Phoenix.

Beadworker, painter, fashion designer, glass artist , performance artist.

Marcus Amerman is a distinguished Choctaw artist who works in a number of media and in performance (as a figure called ‘Buffalo Man’) but is best known for creating his own approach to the Native American tradition of beadworking. Amerman has a BA in Fine Art from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and also studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and the Anthropology Film Center. He lives and works north of Santa Fe. Amerman uses a highly mimetic style in his beadwork to recreate, and hence reclaim, Indian images from history, as in his beaded version of the famous D.F. Barry photograph, ...

Article

Canadian First Nations (We Wai Kai/Cape Mudge Band), 21st century, male.

Born 1975, in Richmond (British Columbia).

Painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer.

The aesthetic of Sonny Assu (Liǥwilda’x̱w/Laich-kwil-tach) is a confluence of Northwest Coast formline motifs and popular Western culture. He is well versed in the traditional Kwakwaka’wakw arts of drum, blanket and basket making and uses these as the starting place of many of his artworks. Drawing on a pop sensibility, mass-media culture is used as a conduit to explore and expose these Kwakwaka’wakw traditions as well as the artist’s own mixed heritage. By bringing these seemingly desperate elements together, Assu’s works challenge popular notions of authenticity regarding Indigenous people and their art. Moreover, while the works may appear whimsical at first glance, they offer a sharp critique of Western society’s culture of consumption as it relates to colonisation, both historical and ongoing, in North America....

Article

Native American (Wiyot and Yurok), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1946, in Newport (Oregon).

Sculptor, painter, ceramicist, mixed-media artist, print-maker.

Rick Bartow of the Wiyot and Yurok Nations of Northern California works in a number of media to create images which often reference indigenous North American transformation myths. His work with the Maori artist John Bevan Ford has also been an influence. In ...

Article

Canadian First Nations (Ojibwa), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1942 or 1943, in M’chigeeng (West Bay), Manitoulin Island. Died 2005, Ottawa.

Draughtsman, painter, ceramicist, installation artist.

Carl Beam, a distinguished Ojibwa artist, was the first Canadian indigenous artist to gain recognition for contemporary Native American art by having one of his pieces accepted into the National Gallery of Art (Ottawa). He achieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Victoria, and ...

Article

Arthur Silberman

(d White Cone, AZ, Nov 15, 1917).

Native American Navajo painter. Begay was a prolific artist for over 50 years, and his work is familiar through paintings, book illustrations and screenprints, making him perhaps the best-known contemporary Native American painter. In 1934 he entered the Santa Fe Indian School (see Native North American art, §IV, 2) and joined the ‘Studio’ of Dorothy Dunn (1903–1990), where he was one of Dunn’s star students. In 1939, the year of his graduation, he painted one of the murals on the façade of Maisel’s trading post in Albuquerque, NM. With a scholarship from the Indian Commission, he went on to study architecture at Black Mountain College, NC.. Due to the public’s ready acceptance of his paintings, after his return from military service in World War II he became one of the first Native American artists to support himself by painting full-time. Widely exhibited, he was a consistent award-winner at exhibitions, and his work has been included in every important public and private collection of Native American art. In recognition of his contributions to Native American art he was awarded the French government’s Palmes Académiques in ...

Article

Canadian First Nations (Anishinaabe), 20th century, female.

Born 22 March 1960, in Upsala (Ontario).

Performance artist, installation artist, sculptor, video artist.

Rebecca Belmore was sent from her home to attend high school in Thunder Bay (Ontario), where she was billeted with a non-Aboriginal family. She graduated from the experimental art programme at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and Design in ...

Article

Charlotte Townsend-Gault

(b Upsala, Ontario, March 22, 1960).

Native American, Canadian installation and performance artist of Anishinabe descent. She attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto (1984–6), emerging among newly visible and influential First Nations figures in the arts in Canada whose work focused on the social, political and historical issues associated with their ethnic identity. The period was marked by the acknowledgement of aboriginal rights in the amended 1982 Canadian Constitution and by confrontations, sometimes violent, between indigenous people and the authorities over the nature and extent of those rights. Outrage at the tragic consequences of the historical marginalisation of native people and determination to recover their voice has always informed Belmore’s work. In the iconic Talking to their Mother (1991), which brought her wide attention, she travelled to Native American communities with an enormous, finely crafted wooden megaphone, literally giving people a voice with which to speak to their land....

Article

Canadian First Nations (Micmac/Mi’kmaq), 21st century, male.

Born 1986, in Stephenville Crossing (Newfoundland).

Performance artist, installation artist, sculptor, painter.

Jordan Bennett is a multimedia artist born and raised in Newfoundland. In 2008 he received a BA in Fine Arts from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College (Corner Brook, Newfoundland), and later continued his education with anthropology and art history courses at the same college. Bennett describes himself as a ‘multi-disciplinary’ artist who liberally mixes visual and intellectual references from his own tribal background, intertribal issues, popular cultures and politics, Bennett conveys with buoyant vitality messages related to Canadian Aboriginal peoples that he feels are hard to communicate to the general public. Bennett’s artistic strategy is a direct engagement with the audience, which aims at stimulating interest and generating curiosity about indigenous issues and concerns such as treaty rights, land rights, cultural change and language loss. Directly engaged in recovering his native language (Micmac), Bennett exploits the multi-layered nature of the linguistic sign to reveal the variety of meanings that symbols can carry in different contexts. His re-fashioning of consumer products such as skateboards, Mac computers, turntables, shoes and surfboards turns mass production into quintessentially indigenous manufacturing that triggers in the viewer questions about authenticity and identity at the core of his artistic project. The indigenisation of commercial objects becomes an act of translation, which turns personal experience into political statements through the potential of objects to become catalysts for intercultural dialogues in public spaces as much as in the art gallery....

Article

Native American (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa Nation, Ojibwe), 20th century, female.

Born 1967, in Michigan.

Black ash basket weaver, painter.

Kelly Jean Church received an Associate of Arts degree from the Institute of American Indian Studies in 1996, a Bachelor of Arts degree in painting/sculpture from the University of Michigan in ...

Article

Native American (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1946, in Montana.

Printmaker, photographer, conceptual artist, installation artist.

Corwin Clairmont, or ‘Corky’, received his MFA from California State University, Los Angeles in 1971. His early work, concerning social and environmental issues, earned him a Ford Foundation Grant (...

Article

Margaret Moore Booker

(b Cow Springs, AZ, March 21, 1946).

Native American potter. The daughter of famed Navajo potter Rose Williams, Cling broke with tradition by creating highly polished, red-hued decorative ware in a contemporary style that ushered in a new generation of Navajo art potters (including her two sisters).

After graduating from the Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, UT, she married Jerry Cling and worked as a teacher’s aide at the Shonto Boarding School. Initially learning to pot from her mother while a young girl, she became interested in the craft in the 1970s and over time developed an innovative style that reflected her own individual vision.

Cling used the traditional method of coiling and pinching clay into the desired form, then sanded, polished and coated her pottery with piñon pitch. She worked in the small communal room of her home in the Shonto-Cow Springs region of Arizona, watched by her mother, who lived across the highway. Her pots were fired outdoors in an open pit with juniper wood (and sometimes sheep manure) for fuel....

Article

Martine Reid

(b Masset, Queen Charlotte Islands, BC, Nov 4, 1946).

Native American Haida sculptor, metalworker, printmaker and blanket-maker. He was the grandson of the Haida blanket- and basket-maker Florence Davidson (1895–1993), and great-grandson of the Haida wood-carver Charles Edenshaw. He began carving argillite as a teenager in Masset, and in 1966 he met Bill Reid, who offered him workshop space in Vancouver. There Davidson developed new carving skills and learnt the fundamentals of the two-dimensional (‘formline’) designs used by the Haida and other tribes of the northern Northwest Coast (see Native North American art, §III, 2). In 1969 he returned to Masset to carve a 12.2 m-high totem pole, the first heraldic column to be raised on the Queen Charlotte Islands since the end of the 19th century. In 1987 Davidson and his crew produced a set of three totem poles entitled Three Variations on Killer Whale Myths for the Pepsicola Sculptural Garden in Purchase, NY. In these totem poles Davidson worked within the strict conventions of the Haida style, refining it by introducing subtle variations in design but preserving a degree of conservative austerity in which movement and individual expression are sacrificed to overall unity of form. In his early work in silver Davidson used flat patterns influenced by Edenshaw, and he went on to develop these into an innovative style of his own in screenprints, silver and bronze. Davidson’s younger brother, ...

Article

Canadian First Nations (Ojibwa), 20th–21st century, female.

Born 1952, in Toronto.

Sculptor, performance artist, multimedia artist, installation artist.

A member of the Serpent River First Nation, Bonnie Devine is a Canadian Ojibwa artist, writer and curator. She studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design in ...

Article

John-Paul Stonard

(b Washington, AR, July 10, 1940).

Native American Cherokee sculptor, performance artist, and video artist. In 1968 he moved to Geneva, where he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1972. After his return to the USA he lived on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and played an active part in the American Indian Movement; he also served from 1975 to 1979 as the executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council in New York. He left both organizations in 1980. Durham’s sculptures and installations can be seen against a background of activism, in which he records the plight of Native Americans in the face of Western colonial culture. His sculptures, bricolages of found objects, often take the form of vivid anthropomorphic constructions, appearing as ironic fetishes in an ethnographic display. Durham often includes words that provide witty if inconclusive suggestions of the type of protest that he is staging, as in the wall-mounted work ...

Article

Native American (Okanagan), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1953, in Omak, Washington.

Printmaker, muralist, sculptor, mixed-media artist. Collage, glass.

Born in 1953, Joe Feddersen is an Okanagan member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, and a Native American artist. He earned his BFA at the University of Washington (...

Article

Native American (Nisenan Maidu), 20th century, male.

Born 1946, in Sacramento; died 28 December 2006.

Painter, printmaker, pastel artist.

Harry Fonseca descended from a North Californian indigenous people, the Nisenan Maidu and also has Hawaiian and Portuguese heritage. His paintings of an imaginative Native American-inspired figure of Coyote dressed in modern clothing and carrying out non-traditional activities became iconic of his generation of artists. He began his art training under another Native American California-born artist, Frank LaPena, at Sacramento State College (now CSUS), but left after a short time to pursue his own brand of humorous and idiosyncratic works. His...

Article

W. Jackson Rushing III

(b Sacramento, CA, Jan 5, 1946; d Santa Fe, NM, Dec 28, 2006).

Native American painter, printmaker and sculptor of Maidu, Hawaiian and Portuguese ancestry. Raised in Northern California, Fonseca studied at Sacramento City College and at California State University at Sacramento with Wintu artist Frank LaPena (b 1937). A leading figure in the national network of contemporary native artists that formed in the early to mid-1970s, Fonseca received the Best of Show Award in the Indian Art Now exhibition at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Sante Fe, NM, in 1979. Many honors followed, including the Allan Houser Memorial Award and an Eiteljorg Museum Fellowship for Native American Fine Art, both in 2005. Inspired by mythology, pictography and modernism, he explored oral history, media imagery and popular culture through figuration and abstraction.

Fonseca’s earliest imagery transformed indigenous designs and material culture. His Maidu Creation Story (1977) was the first of several treatments (1991, 2006) of subject matter based on the teachings of his uncle, Henry Azbill. The quiet, folkish elegance and pristine primitivism of his drawings for the anthology ...

Article

Native American (Tlingit and Aleut), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1979, in Sitka (Alaska).

Conceptual artist, performance artist, musician. Installation, video, mixed media.

Nicholas Galanin is a Tlingit and Aleut artist. He received a BA in jewellery design at London Guildhall University (2003), and a MA in Indigenous Visual Arts at Massey University (...

Article

Canadian First Nations (Oneida), 20th–21st century, male.

Born 1950, in Oshweken (in Ontario).

Sculptor (stone/bronze/wood). Masks, jewellery.

David General grew up on the Grand River Reserve in Southern Ontario. He worked as a schoolteacher before deciding to become an artist after a trip to the Manitoulin Island Reserve, which inspired him to use visual art to promote his Native American heritage. He is a self-taught artist and briefly worked as a painter before turning exclusively to sculpture in the mid-1970s after meeting Bill Reid. Throughout his career he has been heavily involved in working for First Nations (Native American) rights: he co-founded and chaired the Society of Canadian Artists of Native Ancestry (SCANA), has been the coordinator for the Department of Indian Affairs art collection and was an elected representative, and latterly Chief (...