Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Local Art Seen: The Anishinaabe Kwe Way exhibition at the Kruk Gallery at UW-Superior

The late Jim Northrup by Ivy Vainio.
The Kruk Gallery in Holden Hall at UW-Superior is a little gem of a space that is often overlooked, but ought not be forgotten. If you get a chance, take a lunch hour to see the Anishinaabe Kwe Way exhibition this month. Gallery hours: week days from 9 am - 4 pm and on Thursdays 9 - 7 pm. Closed for Spring Break.

The current exhibit features three local Anishinaabe artists who connect their ancestors' stories to their own -- Sarah Agaton Howes, Ivy Vainio, and Leah Yellowbird. Their individual visions come together in a celebration of contemporary Anishinaabe culture that is strongly rooted in tradition.

I've been a longtime fan of Ivy Vainio's photography and Leah Yellowbird's incredibly detailed images. I'm less familiar with Sarah Agaton Howes but I've noticed her workmanship in a few places I have been in recent years. I look forward to seeing more.

Howes is an Anishinaabe artist, teacher, and community organizer from Fond du Lac Reservation in Minnesota,"widely known for her handmade regalia and moccasins featuring Ojibwe floral designs, which are in demand across Minnesota and Wisconsin. Sarah started creating art as a teen with guidance from her mother. Later, when she expressed an interest in traditional dance, she learned to bead from her brother so she could make her own traditional regalia. Her current work – which specializes in Ojibwe Floral – represents the perpetuation of that tradition."

Ivy Vainio  "The rewards I get from taking photographs at cultural events is that I am educating others about these cultures through this art form. I feel honored that people will allow me to be part of these family and cultural celebrations/community events and that I know that they appreciate my work and documentation of what’s important to them and the community."

Patience, dexterity, innovation, and experience.
Leah Yellowbird "describes her process in the context of survival; painting and beading are like breathing to her. She draws inspiration from the traditional art forms of her ancestors while adding a modern voice to the imagery, the result of which evokes a sense of nostalgia and wonder. Her work is a visual manifestation of time, each dot embodying a moment and a prayer. Using precision, pressure and symmetry, her pointillistic style leaves viewers humbled and curious — they walk away having seen something they’ve never seen before."

America as Tossed Salad
While growing up we learned in school to cherish the our American heritage, that it was a great melting pot into which peoples from everywhere came and added their various flavors to the broth. Years later it dawned on me that this broth metaphor failed in one essential respect. Being American seemed to mean letting go of what we were and where we came from.

Wouldn't tossed salad be a better metaphor? In a salad the various compnents retain their original flavors and textures, yet uniquely contribute to the whole. Here in the Northland we our tossed salad culture far more vividly than I ever observed it growing up in New Jersey, especially in the arts. The strong influence of Scandinavian immigrants and indigenous peoples has been retained and is readily visible. American history did not begin with the American Revolution. Nor did its art.

If you live in the Twin Ports and have not yet been to the Kruk Gallery, this exhibit would be a good excuse to learn where it is.

* * * *
Do not forget tonight's Community Forum at the Underground. 5:30 p.m., downstairs in the Depot.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

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