The Evolution of Jeffrey Gibson

robohontas with gibson

I remember the first time I saw Jeffrey Gibson’s work. It was in the “Off the Map” exhibit at the New York branch of the National Museum of the American Indian. At the time I was more interested in work by some of the other artists who were part of that show such as James Lavadour and Erica Lord. But I did find his work to be refreshing in that it pushed the boundaries of contemporary Native art in unexpected ways. Bright, lush, and messy, those pieces evoked jungles and fantastical landscapes in my mind.

The next work of his I saw was at Crow’s Shadow Institute where several of his prints from a residency were on display. These were very graphic and restrained compared to the earlier paintings. I found them enticing and used one as a backdrop for a picture of Robohontas (see image above).

And then a friend sent me a link on Facebook last week to an article in Hyperallergic: Native American Iconography Meets Modernist Aesthetic and Material. I’m sure she sent it because of the style of work shown (triangles!) which has similarities with some of my own work. But I was so surprised to find it was Jeffrey Gibson’s work again! And the geometric paintings on stretched hides is so spare compared to those first pieces of his I saw. I really loved seeing how his art has changed and evolved over time and that he is still experimenting with a variety of styles. The punching bags are also super cool and really bring an interesting element of violence into the conversation. Is it political? Is it whimsical? Is it historical? It may well be any, all, or none of those things in the mind of the artist. The important thing is that it made me think.

I’ve included links to the work and articles I was talking about, which I figured is easier than trying to include and credit images from other websites. Also, I’m writing this on my last day in Minnesota after three weeks here. I think I’ve managed to stuff everything into my bags somehow. Looking forward to being home!


Native Art at MIA (and also at SAM)


Visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) today and it was fantastic! There was so much to see and we really only went through probably half of the entire museum. So many pieces/artists that I remembered from my art history classes. One of the things I really liked was the galleries that held Native American art. Above is a picture of one of the rooms. They interspersed contemporary and historic pieces in a way that I really appreciated. For instance this room had a lot of artifacts from plains tribes but also included contemporary pieces such as the sculpture by George Morrison as well as four pieces by Wendy Red Star.

They didn’t have any artifacts from northern California, but there was a painting by Rick Bartow! He’s one of my favorite artists and is Yurok/Wiyot which are tribes near my own. Picture below, along with a shot of the accompanying text which I had to photograph because they misspelled “Yurok” after his name. I thought that was amusing!





Again, I really enjoyed the way that exhibits were curated throughout the parts of the museum that I saw. It was extremely thoughtful and really helped to engage visitors. And the inclusion of artwork from different periods of time in the Native galleries really helped to underscore that these are living cultures. There were a couple of pieces by George Morrison there, but I also found another of his pieces in the contemporary galleries. This was rather refreshing as it really underscored the different lenses that can be used to view Native art.

I do love Seattle Art Museum back home in Seattle, but we really don’t have anything that compares to MIA or other really large and comprehensive collections such at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Also, I still find SAM’s Native galleries to be a little cold. They have started to incorporate a few more contemporary pieces in like Preston Singletary’s giant glass screen Keet Shagoon (Killer Whale). But they could definitely push things further in this direction, which I think would really breathe some life into these galleries and make them less tomb-like. Below is a picture I took at SAM earlier this year of one of their Native galleries. (It does include a glass piece by Preston Singletary that is paired with an artifact of the type that it is modeled after.)


The special exhibition of Salish art they had done a few years ago had some really great and engaging aspects that I would love to see brought into the way that the permanent collection is presented too. Plus, it feels like there is so much unused space! Feels like a missed opportunity to either have more of the collection on display, or to engage with local Native artists and get more community involvement taking place. There is definitely resistance to contemporary Native art in the Seattle art scene, but I think that SAM could take the lead and really help to educate the public and collectors in this area. Just because we’re more isolated from the contemporary Native art scene in the Southwest doesn’t mean we can’t create our own in the Pacific Northwest!


A piece in the Burke Museum collection!

Dip Net I

I realized that I didn’t write about this at all yet, but the 2013 Potlatch Fund Gala was really fun. This year it was held at the Tulalip Resort and was bigger than ever. I had a few pieces in the silent auction and one of them was purchase by someone at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (at the University of Washington). Just found out today that it is going to be added to the museum’s collection which is super exciting! I had two prints that were similar in the auction and I forget which one went where, but it is either the one pictured, or one very similar. (Apologies for the image quality, it wasn’t my photo…)

Have a couple of shows coming up early next year that I’ll be participating in. Should be skyping in for a meeting about one of them this Saturday and then as soon as I get home later this month I need to select and switch out frames on prints for the other show. I’ll likely do monotypes for both of them but I also am looking forward to getting started on some new work soon. The year hasn’t been as productive as I’d have liked as far as making things. Once things settle down in the next month or two I think that will change!