Friday, April 8, 2016

Sgwigwial?txw at 20

 Past, Visioning Into the Future
Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 9, 2016
“Young Naton,” mixed-media painting by Ka'ilaa Farrell-Smith. All photos courtesy The Evergreen State College.
The Evergreen State College is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Long House with an exhibition called Sgwigwial?txw at 20: Building on the Past, Visioning Into the Future, featuring works by more than 70 Native artists in paint, print, sculpture, glass, basketry and other crafts. Each of the artists has in some way been connected with the Long House, having either taught workshops, exhibited, or done residencies there.
It is a crowded show with much more than I can possibly write about in this column. I’ll mention a few pieces that caught my attention in one way or another and then encourage the reader to make the trip out to Evergreen to see the rest.
“Prisma Owl Totem” by Dan Friday (Lummi)
Just inside the front of the gallery is a large sculptural piece by Sean Gallagher and Teressa White from the King Island Inupiat and Yup’ik tribes respectively. Standing taller than an adult person, the piece consists of three wood and mixed-media sculptures that look like dreamcatchers. There are three large, stacked pieces with bent wood circles with masks suspended in the middle; the two outer pieces are shaped like fat canoes. One of the masks is a fierce-looking hawk or owl (it’s hard to tell which), and the others look more human. It is a powerful and mystical piece.
“120,” an encaustic painting by Melanie Yazzie (Diné) is an abstract painting with multiple amoeba-like shapes floating in a field of milky green. The colors are muted in a marvelous manner. The subject, which is understandable only upon reading the artist’s statement, is living with diabetes. The number represents the artist’s blood-glucose level. I enjoyed this painting for its purely abstract qualities.
“Traditional Cedar Storage Basket” by Haila Old Peter (Chehalis)
As with many of the other pieces in this show, I would not have understood that Ivy Maile Andrade”s glass and mixed-media “Cap Soul” represents a native Hawaiian worldview of people’s relationship with land. All I could see was that it was a set of attractive, semi-transparent glass squares with concave circles and a subtle dot-and-weave pattern that was very attractive.
One of the strangest and possibly most comical pieces in the show, although I suspect the comic aspect was not intentional, is Richard Rowland’s “Coyote Meets the Queen/ Kookaburra/Recalescense,” a ceramic and mixed-media sculpture of a baldheaded man with a bird’s beak for mouth and nose and a big black umbrella growing out of his head. The umbrella is festooned with many little animal bones (ceramic, I presume, or perhaps bird bones).
One of the most attractive works in the show is a fused glass work by Lillian Pitt of the Warm Springs/Wasco/Yakima tribe. It is a translucent green arc that rests on an edge
and is decorated with iconic symbols in light and dark blue that changes color depending on which side you’re seeing it from. The colors are eerie and lovely.
Ka'ila Farrell-Smith of the Klamath/Modoc tribe has two impressive paintings in the show. The smaller of the two, “Young Nation,” is an expressive and colorful painting of an Indian a white robe with an American flag and a cross printed on it. The wall text explains that it has to do with the dominant culture’s attempts to erase Native culture. Her other painting, “Heyoka,” is similar. It depicts  an Indian in full-feathered headdress; on the Indian's shirt is written “REEL NDAN.” His face is painted black around his eyes like a raccoon. Both of these are strong paintings, but look perhaps a bit too much like illustrations for my taste. 
There’s also a great little lithograph of a cow skull with strong black-white contrasts and subtle green and yellow washes by Rick Bartow that is stylistically similar to Farrell-Smith’s paintings but even stronger.
The Evergreen State College Gallery, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon., Tue.,Thurs., Fri., closed Wed., through May 11, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Library 1st floor, Olympia, 360.867.5125


Susan Emley said...

I love this show. So much to see. Thanks for the critique Alec.

Rest in peace dear Rick Bartow. So sad to have you leave.

Kailarose said...

Dear Alec Clayton,

Thank you for selecting my work to be reviewed. I need to highlight a couple of errors in your review of my work that I would appreciate consideration for an edit. My name is Ka'ila Farrell-Smith (not Ka'ukia) and I am a woman not a man.

Also the smaller painting is titled "Young Nation" not “HḖYÓKA; Young Nation."

Sepk'eec'a (Thank you)

Alec Clayton said...

I'm so sorry for the errors and will correct them immediately.