Berkshiremuseum Press Release
For Immediate Release: June 11, 2012
Media contact: Lesley Ann Beck, Director of Communications
413.443.7171 ext. 28; firstname.lastname@example.org
For Rethink! images: http://www.flickr.com/photos/berkshiremuseum/sets/72157629972509734/
Berkshire Museum presents
Rethink! American Indian Art at Berkshire Museum
Striking contemporary art and significant historic objects on view July 7 through January 6
[Pittsfield, Mass.] – Berkshire Museum will present an innovative exhibition, Rethink! American Indian Art at Berkshire Museum, featuring both striking contemporary art and important historic art objects, on view from July 7, 2012 to January 6, 2013. An opening reception will be held Thursday, July 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. and a Family Day of programs and activities will take place on Saturday, July 14. Rethink! American Indian Art at Berkshire Museum is proudly sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union.
The exhibition will feature contemporary works of art in a range of media and techniques, from video installations, contemporary basketry, and beadwork to ceramics, sculpture, and glass, by accomplished artists Marcus Amerman, Jeremy Frey, Teri Greeves, Diego Romero, Preston Singletary, and Bently Spang. The exhibition also will include historic Native American art objects from Berkshire Museum’s permanent collections. Rethink! is co-curated by art historian Margaret Archuleta and Berkshire Museum’s director of interpretation Maria Mingalone and collections manager/registrar Leanne Hayden.
“Rethink! challenges many of the preconceptions and stereotypes of American Indian art,” says Mingalone. “Showcasing historic material with the work of contemporary artists demonstrates that Indians have not disappeared, and that Indian artists continue to express themselves in a contemporary world. These artists reflect not only on their heritage, but on the human condition as experienced in contemporary life, as any artist would regardless of their background or cultural heritage.”
Six of the participating artists and co-curator Archuleta traveled to the Museum this past winter to take part in a three-day symposium where they were able to review, reflect, and share their stories, thoughts, and opinions about the Museum’s collection, and the relationship of their work to that collection. The sessions were filmed and are being used as a tool in the development of the exhibition. Due to the unique curatorial approach being used in the development of Rethink!, the exhibition will move past a typical anthropological interpretation of Native American cultural objects to present them for what they are: rich, vibrant artworks.
“Bringing the artists to the Museum to review and respond to the Museum’s Indian collection created a community approach to the organizing of Rethink!. The artists’ responses are incorporated throughout the exhibition—in the graphic panels, on label text, and as part of the selection process. The artists bring an Indian ‘voice’ to the historic collection,” says Archuleta. “Most importantly, Rethink! advances the fact that Indian people have not ‘disappeared’ and that their art is a continuum of living cultures—no matter the media. Rethink! provides the museum visitor an opportunity to reevaluate their notions and understanding of Indian people and the artwork they create.”
The artists whose work will be exhibited in the show use traditional materials interchangeably with cutting-edge materials and the latest techniques. It’s an integral part of their tradition to adapt and innovate, using what is around them to move forward creatively. For Bently Spang, performance and video are a clear continuation of his Cheyenne heritage. On his magnificent war shirt assemblages, Spang incorporates modern objects in the same way a wife or mother would have included a medicine bundle or amulet on a war shirt made two hundred years ago for a family member.
Diego Romero’s ceramic pots resemble, in shape and technique, ones made by his ancestors, but the iconography in his decoration is completely contemporary. Glass artist Preston Singletary uses the symbolic, iconic imagery of the Tlingit, rendered in contemporary glass techniques in striking black and red.
“Rethink! challenges us to reconsider our perceptions of American Indian art, as well as our understanding of American Indians and even what it means to be American,” adds Berkshire Museum executive director Van Shields.
Berkshire Museum’s collection of historic Native American art objects includes many items purchased in the early twentieth century, representing tribal nations from across the country, by the Museum’s founder Zenas Crane. Visitors will see decorated moccasins, some with quills and others with beads; a Lakota Sioux feathered headdress; a deerskin frontiersman’s coat embellished with elaborate porcupine quill embroidery; a vividly patterned pipe bag embellished with both quills and beads; a meticulously woven Panamint figural basket; a beautiful Salish/Kootenai beaded cradleboard; and an exquisitely tiny Pomo gift basket covered in yellow and blue feathers.
“Berkshire Museum’s Native American collection has not been on exhibit to this extent in some time. It includes some truly wonderful objects that I believe many of our visitors have never seen,” explains Hayden. “In this exhibition, we have been faced with the challenge of reinterpreting this collection to reflect the changes that American Indian cultures have experienced through time and updating our understanding of history.”
About the contemporary artists
Marcus Amerman, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is well-known for his intricate beadwork. Amerman received a BFA at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Amerman’s work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Portland Art Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History, among others. Visit http://marcusamerman.com for more information.
Jeremy Frey is a Passamaquoddy basketmaker, based in Maine, who specializes in split ash baskets, as well as porcupine quillwork. Frey learned basketmaking from his mother Gal Frey, a renowned artist in her own right. Frey’s elegant baskets combine traditional shapes and patterns with contemporary influences. In 2011, Frey was the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market Best of Show Winner and took the Best of Show prize at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market as well. His work is included in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, among others.
Teri Greeves is of Kiowa heritage, but was raised on the Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, taking up beadwork at the age of eight. Greeves earned her BA at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Greeves follows the Kiowa tradition of beadwork, telling stories with a contemporary twist. She has won many awards for her beadwork, including Best of Show at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market in 1999. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum, the British Museum in London, the National Museum of the American Indian, and many others. To see her work, go to www.jsauergallery.com.
Born and raised in Berkley, California, Diego Romero is descended from the Cochiti Pueblo and specializes in ceramics. Romero attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico; earned his BFA at the Otis Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles; and his MFA at the University of California, Los Angeles. His work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Denver Art Museum, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, and the British Museum in London, among others. Romero’s ceramic objects reflect the influence of Ancient Greece with a comic book sensibility. To see his work, visit www.robertnicholsgallery.com.
Combining European glass-blowing tradition with Northwest Native design, Preston Singletary draws on cultural and historical images from his Tlingit ancestry for his distinctive artwork. Singletary entered the world of glass blowing as an assistant, working alongside Seattle-area artists such as Benjamin Moore and Dante Marioni. He studied at the Pilchuk Glass School and he also had opportunities to learn the secrets of the Venetian glass masters while working with Italian legends Lino Tagliapietra, Pino Signoretto, and others. Singletary’s work is included in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Seattle Art Museum, the Corning Museum of Glass, the Mint Museum of Art and Design in Charlotte, N.C., and the Handelsbanken in Stockholm, Sweden. His website is at www.prestonsingletary.com.
Bently Spang is a Northern Cheyenne multidisciplinary artist, author, and curator whose mediums include video, performance, mixed media sculpture, and installation. He holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His work has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum; the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona; the Denver Art Museum; the Tang Museum at Skidmore College; the National Museum of the American Indian; and the Tacoma Art Museum, among many others.
Margaret L. Archuleta, of Tewa heritage, is based in New Mexico and is a doctoral candidate in Art History/Native Art History at the University of New Mexico. She is a curator and created an exhibition of Contemporary Native Art at the White House entitled, “Honoring Native America.” She is the former director of the Institute of American Indian Art Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was a curator at the Heard Museum of American Indian Art and History, Phoenix, Arizona.
About the Opening Events
Opening reception: Thursday, July 12, 5 to 7 p.m. View the exhibition, meet the artists, refreshments. $10, Museum members free.
Family Opening Day: Saturday, July 14, activities and programs included with Museum admission
Conversation with the Curators 10 a.m. Coffee and pastry served.
Basketry Demonstration 10 to11 a.m. Passamaquoddy basketmaker Jeremy Frey demonstrates preparation of ash strips on the lawn.
Wampanoag Singers 11 a.m. to noon Four Native American performers will present Eastern Algonquian songs and dances in the theater.
Rethink! Tradition 1 p.m. Kay Olan Ionataiewas (Mohawk/Wolf Clan) presents traditional stories and music from the Haudenosaunee.
Rethink! Skills Noon to 2 p.m. Artists demonstrate traditional crafts in the galleries.
Wigwam Builders 2 p.m. Join Darrel Wixon and David Weeden at the wigwam.
Rethink! Edible 2:30 to 4 p.m. Chef Anna Gershenson will prepare dishes for tasting that utilize traditional Native American ingredients.
Storywalk All day family reading activity; children read Many Nations: An Alphabet of Native America by Joseph Bruchac to their parents. Free copies of the book available first-come, first-served as supplies last. StoryWalk is presented in partnership with Wee Read, an early childhood literacy program.
Berkshire Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.berkshiremuseum.org or call 413.443.7171. Museum admission is $13 for adults and $6 for children. Members and children aged three and under enjoy free admission.
The Museum is located at 39 South Street on Route 7 in downtown Pittsfield. Berkshire Museum is the first public museum in Berkshire County, established by Zenas Crane in 1903 as a museum of art and natural history. Little Cinema is open year-round. Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, Aquarium, Alexander Calder Gallery, and other exhibits are ongoing.
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