The Shaw Gallery in the Kimball Arts building unveiled their newest exhibition “We Are the People,” on Feb. 26. According to those in charge, the exhibition is one of the Shaw Gallery’s most unique, and will be up for students to see until April 8.
“We Are the People” features work by a group of contemporary indigenous artists from the United States and Canada. Artist and curator, Wendy Red Star, brought eight artists to Weber State University to explore indigeneity.
“This was my chance to put together a dream team of my favorite contemporary Native artists,” Red Star said at a panel discussion on Feb. 25. Another goal was to emphasize the way the artists use old and new technology.
“My goal with this show was to give an opportunity for a variety of diverse indigenous artists to show their work and chime in on contemporary art discourse,” said Lydia Gravis, director of the Shaw Gallery.
One of the main ideas with this exhibition was to get rid of some of the stereotypes people may have about indigenous art.
“Oftentimes people have preconceived notions of what art made by Native American and First Nation people looks like. It’s an opportunity to show that it doesn’t look a certain way,” Gravis said.
This exhibition is unique because it utilizes media such as video, photography, performance and sculpture. Each artist actively investigates and engages with the concepts of nationhood, indigenism, ritualism and land.
The art mixes contemporary elements and new technology with traditional aspects of Native American culture.
“Just because the art is contemporary, new and fresh, doesn’t mean tradition is absent from it,” said Gravis.
There is a lot of technology that is used in the show. There are videos that the artists have put together, and artist Elisa Harkins used a Kinect to track her dancer’s motions during her performance and then transformed that into sound which she played with traditional Cherokee flute music. She remixed the sounds and created a pop/disco song.
Similarly, artist Amelia Winger-Bearskin made a video entitled “Say Indian,” using traditional Western movies to find the word “Indian.” The video is two minutes long and is played on a continuous loop.
“It’s surprising and unsurprising what you get,” she said at the panel discussion. “Everyone (in the video) has a different way of saying it.”
According to Gravis, the exhibition opening featured live performances, which is something the Shaw Gallery hasn’t done in a while.
Because the exhibition is only open for six weeks, Gravis said students should take advantage of it while they can.
“I think it’s the responsibility of a college student to learn as much about what they can, about whatever they can,” Gravis said. She said visiting areas on campus like the Shaw Gallery can help students develop a broad understanding of different disciplines.
“It’s an opportunity to expand perspectives,” said Gravis. She also mentioned that some students may not be totally understanding of contemporary art, so the Shaw Gallery offers fliers that have artist statements and titles to compliment the exhibition.
“The show is called ‘We Are the People’ to really reflect our individuality and show that we are the people and aren’t limited,” said Red Star.