Exhibit examines the Native American experience

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By John Larson – jlarson@tacomaweekly.com

 

Pictured here is “The Swamp” by Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, oil on canvas.
Credit: Tacoma Art Museum

A new exhibit at Tacoma Art Museum delves into the Native American experience, offering biting commentary on a variety of social issues along the way. Jane Quick-to-See Smith draws upon her Salish-Kootenai tribal background for “In the Footsteps of my Ancestors.”

“Celebrate 40,000 Years of American Art” challenges the notion that art on this continent only began upon the arrival of European settlers, when in reality the original inhabitants have been making artwork for much longer. It depicts a black outline of a dancing rabbit. Several men in Revolutionary War soldier outfits march next to it.

“Sissy and the Plutocrats” is an oil on canvas painting inspired by the story from Greek mythology of Sisyphus, who was forced to push a boulder up a hill. When he neared the top, it would roll back down the hill and he would have to start over. Here, a Native woman pushes a child in a shopping cart up a hill piled high with gourmet food, none of it available for her. The moon contains a rabbit while in the corner, a butler holds up a tray of food.

“Tongass Trade Canoe” examines oil drilling in Alaska. Newspaper articles on environmental topics have been glued on. A herd of caribou appears at the top of the painting. Above is a shelf of baskets made of plastics, a byproduct of petroleum.

“Trade Canoe: Don Quixote in Sumeria” is an oil on acrylic painting on canvas that examines war. The canoe, filled with skulls, floats on blood red water.

“Spam” has acrylic paint and mixed media on canvas. It examines how Native people were gradually shifted away from eating traditional food, such as buffalo meat, to mass produced and less healthy replacements, such as the canned meat product.

“The Vanishing American” shows that Indians, against heavy odds, have survived and progressed. The vanishing white faces indicates the changing demographics of the nation, with the percentage of minorities increasing.

“Mixed Blood” is tribute to Gerald Slater, founder of Salish-Kootenai College. It depicts four hearts representing the four directions.

“Georgia On My Mind” is the title of a famous song, but a painting of the same name is the artist’s tribute to Georgia O’Keefe.

A few pastel paintings show the artist’s skill with this medium.

The exhibit is on display through June 30.

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