How do Native American designers transform traditional beading, ancient symbols, social commentary, and tribal embroidery into contemporary fashion?
Answers are on display in the exhibition, Art of Indigenous Fashion at Santa Fe’s IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art (MoCNA) through January 8. It’s a fitting exhibition that opened in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWIA) Indigenous Fashion show.
The show puts the work of 2022 Native American Treasure honoree Virgil Ortiz front and center, with three imposing Recon Watchmen costumes. No, it’s not runway fashion. But these futuristic sci-fi ensembles from the year 2180 are made for a film where protectors travel back in time to help the New Mexico pueblos successfully fight their opressors in the Revolt of 1680.
Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo) combines film, fabric, headresses, and history to tell the story of a real-life Native revolution that Pueblo kids never learned in their New Mexican history classes. Look close at the awesome printed silk cloaks, lamé “armor”, and dramatic sculpted masks of these dramatic Native superheroes.
Next, you see how Native artists combined art and fashion from the mid-20th century until now.
Several historic pieces are by the godfather of Native American contemporary fashion (and early leader of IAIA), Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee), who had a successful contemporary line in Scottsdale in the 1940s and1950s.
The clothes in this exhibition feature buttons and clasps made by Charles Loloma, a Hopi innovator in contemporary Native jewelry, who also had a shop in Scottsdale and joined New at IAIA in the Sixties. Lucky that collectors saved these gems for us.
The 2000 embroidered, appliqued wool “Chilkat” cape by Pamela Baker (Tlingit/Haida) is regal enough to wear at any black-tie affair.
The same for Orlando Dugi’s (Dine’) 2018 feathered and beaded evening dress with a subtle golden eagle and touches of sparkling corn pollen. Dugi is a self-taught couturier, who meticulously applies each bead and feather himself.
Two dramatic red-carpet dresses by Lesley Hampton (Anishinaabe) that have appeared at recent Emmy and Golden Globe Award events are reminders of the inroads being made by Native Americans artists in the entertainment sector.
Among the most dramatic social-commentary work, Canadian design team Decontie & Brown (Penobscott Nation) has two attention-grabbers – a “wedding dress” offering the wearer protective spikes from unwanted advances and radiating power-feathers, and the “I Am A Reflection…” mirrored man’s coat. Absorbed in the kaleidoscope of the coat’s reflected light, viewers contemplate Decontie & Brown’s message as they marvel at the visual magic.
The elegant embroidered cashmere shift by Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dena/Cree) has delicate somber black wings fluttering across the back. But these are paired with a front shouting the savage message of 20th-century Indian boarding school government policy. Beautiful but chilling.
Anita Fields (Osage) is represented by a suspended fashion installation in the center of main gallery – a wildly oversized embroidered top hat and wedding coat titled “It’s In Our DNA, It’s Who We Are.” Intertwined strands are emblazoned on the front; images of the unfortunate treaty her tribe signed in 1808 line the inside.
Outside the main gallery, MoCNA has invited Mohawk multimedia artist Skawennati to create a digital mural and installation of her “Activist Avatars,” cyber-protesters modeling a virtual clothing line. Multiple screens of social-justice protesters in power-to-the-people cammo and calico march toward viewers in the MoCNA screening room to an energetic Native hip-hop track.
Edward Weston and Ansel Adams set a high bar for classic, modernist photography, but the generation of image-makers who followed were driven to experiment, shake things up, and see where it all led.
Why not go back a hundred years and make new images with historic photo techniques (sun prints, anyone)? Has anyone tried embroidering photos? What about mashing up photo-silkscreen prints with readymade collages decorated with rubber stamps?
A stroll through the gallery shows a broad range of creative 20th-century minds at work, with at least one case showcasing some 19th century pioneers.
Meet Lady Mary Georgina Filmer, a London society gal who mastered the art of photocollage as early as the 1860s. A page from one of her albums shows how she merged topsy-turvey photo images, botanical watercolors, and text to tell stories her own way – a true stay-at-home pioneer!
Lady Filmer’s album looks out on dozens of other Americans who went back into the time machine to toy with making albumen prints, stereographs, hand-colored photos, drawing, and cyanotypes. Example: the arresting 1970s hand-colored gelatin silver print by Karen Truax where she ghosts-out her central figure.
For anyone curious about these old-timey methods, the curators have provided visitors with a place to relax, leaf through books about it, and watch YouTube videos on the gallery iPad.
Another gallery features artists who took photography mixed-media to the next level, like Rauchenburg’s litho that appropriates Bonnie and Clyde movie stills and an over-the-top abstraction by Thomas Barrow that combines gelatin silver print technique with a crazy-quilt of stencils, spray paint, and objects. So totally Eighties!
The third gallery displays lots of fool-the-eye and 3-D delights. What’s the most fun? Jerry McMillan’s photo-offset inside a “paper bag?” Betty Han’s Soft Daguerreotype of Xeroxed weeds on fabric? Probably Robert Heinecken’s T.V. Dinner/Shrimp. Hard to choose.
Other sections of the exhibition show how 1970s photographers made images in which photography itself was the subject and told highly personal stories.
And don’t forget the coda that features a dramatic images by more recent photographers that make provocative social statements and represent voices that were not fully represented within the university system during the 1960s and 1970s.
In the early 1980s, socially minded artists living downtown in New York couldn’t handle the news coming out of Central America and did something about it. The United States government was intervening in the affairs of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and everyone was worried that the situation was going to devolve into another Vietnam.
In 1982, a group of New York artists collaborated with Latin American artists to create a show with contemporary art and cultural artifacts to draw attention to the escalating crises in Latin America. By 1984, organizers launched a national call to artists to raise money and awareness of what was happening.
Artists responded with performances, music concerts, films, poetry readings, and exhibition. In New York alone, over 1,100 artists participated in over 30 exhibitions.
Nationally, artists in 27 cities organized chapters and events and tried to build alliances in Latin America.
Videos, photographs, sculptures, paintings, and ephermera pulled from archives (like posters, buttons, mail art, and pamphlets) bring the story of artist-activists to life – their concerns about US government intervention, their efforts to organize artists across the United States, and their attempts to help artists living in oppressed Central American countries.
The Tufts University-organized show resurrects a largely forgotten story of artist activism, illuminates the tribulations of indigenous communities in Central America at the time, introduces us to contemporary works from artists inspired by their indigenous heritage, and gives us an idea of what’s happening in those countries now.
The three-floor show is packed with arresting images, works, and histories. The art work and documentation push and pull visitors between the international political crises of the 1980s and social-justice issues being addressed by artists today.
The installation features work by heavy hitters of the 1980s New York art scene – wall-size Vietnam-era work by Leon Golub, images documenting Ana Mendieta’s performance pieces, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s sketches, maquettes, and exploding-banana image that branded the Artists Call Against US Intervention initiative.
The first-floor exhibition area includes Nancy Spero’s dramatic scroll-like drawing that calls attention to the oppression of Salvadorean women.
Downstairs, there’s another 1984 work that similarly unfurls the length of the gallery – an accordian-book project led by Sabra Moore that is a collaborative reconstruction of a rare 16th-century Mayan codex by 22 women. It’s the first time the codex has been displayed since 1984.
The third floor packs a punch, installing revolutionary images and publications around the infamous (and censored) Hans Haacke piece that questions the aftermath of the 1983 US invasion of Grenada. Across the room, visitors pour over Carlos Motta’s 2005 wall-sized chalkboard installationBrief History of US Interventions in Latin America since 1946.
Although the 1980 artist-activists did not achieve all of their utopian goals, the contemporary selections show that social consciousness, pride in indigenous heritage, and artistic futures are still alive – including a beautiful feathered immigrant history dome by Batriz Cortez, stitched by a team of immigrant collaborators.
Learn more about how the curator Erina Duganne and her collaborator Abigail Satinsky created this remarkable show:
Art for the Future will be on display at Chicago’s DePaul Art Museum from March to August 2023.
One of the most photographed artists of the 20th century, everyone is used to seeing Georgia O’Keeffe in her “formal” pose and gear – angular black hat, stark wrap dress, punctuated by her modernist Calder pin, standing against the New Mexico sky peering solemnly into the future.
The show features a smiling, at-ease 89-year-old surrounded by family, friends, companions, and pets – images quite apart from the GOK that we all admire and revere. How did this happen?
In the 1960s in New York, photographer Malcolm Varon established quite a reputation for documenting painters’ works in a way that captured a lot of their spirit. No wonder that in the mid-1970s, he was summoned out to Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu to document some of Georgia’s huge body of work.
While he was working with the artist during the summer of 1977, a journalist arrived to interview the icon for a feature in ARTnews.
No photographer had been attached to the story, so Georgia came up with hew own solution – ask her colleague Malcolm to shoot her in the setting of her Ghost Ranch home.
Since Malcolm was already familiar with the operations around Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu, he ended up taking about 300 photos of her homes, the landscapes that inspired her, and the people who kept things humming.
Despite Georgia’s reputation as a loner living out in the middle of nowhere, Malcolm appreciated that the day-to-day operations in the outback were quite fun, busy, natural, and happy at her two studio compounds.
ARTnews made a few selections from Varon’s photographs and ran them in the feature, but the majority of the 300 shots were never printed or seen…until now.
Visitors at the GOK museum pour over every detail of the portraits and landscapes, enjoying a new, different glimpse of the artist and her world – Varon’s portrait of Georgia’s sister, beautiful portraits of her property caretakers (whose families still take care of the GOK home for the museum), and her assistant Juan Hamilton.
The curators present several paintings from the 1940s showing the same cliffs, landscapes, and skies that Varon captured in the summer of 1977. Visitors have fun shifting back and forth between the oil paintngs and photos.
Listen in as the curators of this delightful show draw back the curtain on the legendary O’Keeffe, her relationship with photography, and what happened when a trusted friend got her to smile for the camera:
As a young woman, Carla met and got to appreciate Mexico’s indigenous communities as she traveled with her father, a renowned anthropologist. She loved collecting hand-made indigenous garments reflecting the distinct local styles she saw.
As a student of art history and fashion design, the complex indigenous textile techniques in these out-of-the way communities seemed to stand in contrast to the ever-changing, always-disposable cycle of Western fashion.
As presented in her first-ever museum retrospective, the results are dramatic, detailed, intriguing, and one-of-a-kind – a completely different kind of fashion system that incorporates indigenous work, pays and credits community makers, and gives artisans the time to create pieces that collectors cherish.
Carla travels to mountain and desert communities to collaborate with textile artists.
With her fame growing, communities now invite her to drive over, see what they’re doing and brainstorm about potential collaborations. It’s an approach that involves time, dialogue, and mutual respect between the artisans and Carla-as-fashion-facilitator.
In her mobile studio (Taller Flora), they create hand-woven, dyed, and painted works of wearable art that Carla brings to the runway, but always with an eye toward collectors who value innovative, indigenous craft traditions.
The exhibition features runway looks, accessories, and videos of performance art that showcase different facets of her fashion manifesto – that artisan-made is the true “luxury” in a “fast fashion,” throw-away world.
What happens when a Native American MacArthur genius is asked by SITE Santa Fe to create an art exhibition during a time of a global pandemic and social justice marches? And invite him to a location where Native Americans make up a significant percentage of the population?
The result is Jeffrey Gibson: The Body Electric – a constantly surprising gallery journey where shape-shifting, cultural disassociation, beadwork, kitsch-image appropriation, gender-identity questions, and science-fiction inspiration reigns.
The show is filled with life-size beaded dolls and garments, films, pulsing papered walls, mysterious film experiences, and social statements either woven or stamped onto clothes (or are they banners?).
Gibson, who is based in New York, is an intertribal artist who is a member of Mississippi Band of Choctaw and half Cherokee. However, his influences were forged from prestigious art schools, international travel, and living in non-Native societies.
The opportunity to come to Santa Fe, host a cinema series and several performances, and stay out West for a while was an open door to explore inter-cultural influences, host discussions with appreciative audiences, and show off his wide intellectual and artistic breadth.
In many of his works, Jeffrey mixes traditional “Indian” materials like beads or fringe with slogans, sayings, dime-store “Indian” images, and big-time art-world references.
See some our favorites from this exhibit in our Flickr album and hear Jeffrey explain his influences in SITE Santa Fe’s audio guide.
The little beaded birds that greet visitors in the first gallery and the big beaded life-sized “dolls” in the second were inspired by Jeffrey’s early work in the ethnographic collections of the Field Museum, where he encountered Haudenosaunee-made beaded tourist-trade whimsies and traditional “third gender” dolls for the first time. Why not make his own, but over-size them?
The nearby video gallery features a kaleidoscopic multichannel video of Sarah Ortegon, an award-winning Eastern Shoshone/Northern Arapaho jingle dress dancer, performing to the energetic Sisters track by A Tribe Called Red. This piece – She Never Dances Alone – refers to the dancers who came to the Standing Rock Reservation and lent their support to the 2016 pipeline protests though dance.
Here’s Sarah Ortegon in Gibson’s 2019 Times Square installation of She Never Dances Alone here…wait for it:
And here’s another look at Gibson’s 2020 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, where he mixed works from his studio with artifacts and art from Brooklyn’s own collection.
And check out Gibson’s work our album documenting the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian exhibition of Native painting, Stretching the Canvas.
With lights dancing across dozens of floral dresses and sequined classical gowns in an over-the-top Beaux-Arts setting, visitors to the Brooklyn Museum generally stand speechless in awe of the extravagance before them in, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, closing February 20.
It takes a minimum of two hours to travel through the galleries, and much more time to absorb the wonders of this must-see fashion exhibition, drawn largely from the Dior archives in Paris.
The exhibition begins in a traditional gallery format, showcasing Dior’s epic haute couture works of the Forties and Fifties.
Print and film media document Dior’s ecstatic reception in America, including custom client fittings and retail showings in New York and San Francisco.
Some of the most spectacular evening and cocktail looks are paired with modern sculpture by Nevelson and design by Eames from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection.
Turning the corner into the photography gallery, visitors encounter the full spectrum of photographers who have documented Dior couture from the Forties until today.
Visitors are ecstatic when they see the dress next to the Avedon photo that is one of the most iconic fashion images of the 20th century – Dovima modeling Dior’s spectacularly sinuous black-and-white gown, caressing massive, animated elephants that surround her.
After Dior’s untimely death, a succession of fashion superstars led the creative side of the house. The show pays tribute to YSL, Bohan, Ferré, Galliano, and Simons with dramatic installations showing their inspirations from French film noir, modern art, opera, and art history.
There’s a special installation reserved for Dior’s current artistic director, Marie Grazie Chiuri, who has long used her platform in the fashion world to ask probing questions about culture, society, and women.
In this gallery, her dramatic haute couture work is surrounded by shimmering banners that she commissioned from Judy Chicago, whose epic The Dinner Party is the centerpiece of Brooklyn’s feminist art center.
A major set of galleries evokes the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles – a source of inspiration for Mr. Dior.
The curators use the space to show off Dior’s Miss Dior perfume product displays and pairings of old and more recent haute couture inspired by 18th century glamour of the French court. If the exhibition ended right there, you’d be satisfied.
But there’s much more – a gallery segmented by color to show off fashions, accessories, shoes, and miniatures; and an Instagram-ready all-white infinity room with dozens of white toilles made by the Dior ateliers from the designer’s sketches.
It’s another unforgettable gallery experience that pays proper tribute to the teams of behind-the-scenes experts who bring these fashion visions to life.
Although the gallery of celebrity Dior looks is the final stop in the show, it almost feels like an after-thought compared to the magical displays of the Beaux-Arts Court.
Haute couture is everywhere – clustered in the center, surrounding you on all sides, and artfully displayed on two-story-high walls and balconies. One area features floral gowns, another shimmering gold ensembles, and another mysterious, dramatic black drama.
The show is a breathtaking array of light, sound, and visual riches – possibly the greatest feast for the fashion eye since the McQueen show at the Met. Thanks to Dior for letting us see these amazing works from the archive, and to Brooklyn for giving us such an unforgettable fashion experience in its 125-year-old court.
The curators pay tribute to these avid Aesthetic Movement collectors by framing these promised gifts with reproduction period wallpaper and fixtures, and it’s hard to decide where to look first.
The approach to this marvelous exhibition gives modern gallery-goers an experience of what Gilded Age interior designers had in mind – cramming foyers and drawing rooms with lush paintings, flashy techno brass furniture, Japanese-style ceramics, art pottery, and fringed upholstered seats decorated with Arts & Crafts tiles that throwback to mythical times.
The mix of styles and techniques – some old and some new – reflect a time when consumption of luxury goods ran wild with the ascension of New York City as the trading and shipping capital of the world. Many of the pieces reflect new machine-made technology mixed in with a bit of medieval nostalgia via the British Arts and Crafts movement.
Although the exhibition is slightly hidden away, the landscapes appearing throughout the show provide windows to lush valleys of the Rockies (thank you, Mr. Bierstadt!), autumn colors of the Catskills, and spectacular, tranquil shorelines on Maine’s rocky coast. All are either in their original fancy frames or reproductions from the era.
Most of the works are oil paintings, but (in case you didn’t know) New York was also the epicenter of the movement to make watercolor paintings the equal of any fine salon work. The curators have included work by the masterful William Trost Williams, so you can enjoy a side-by-side comparison of the techniques he used to give those oil painters a run for their money. Every time we’ve visited this show, visitors simply stand transfixed, drinking in the saturated, tranquil views of the faraway.
The ceramics, cloisonné tabletops, andirons, and many large-scale pieces reflect the period’s mania for anything with a hint of Japanese or Chinese style – delicate birds flitting through bamboo and fierce dragons swirling in magical space. Designers for the upper classes were captivated by images from kimonos, scrolls, screens, and ceramics from the East and made sure that custom commissioned pieces were on trend.
The mesmerizing beacon within the show is the spectacular array of Tiffany necklaces in the center – dramatic opals and sapphires, often encircled by intricate grapevines in gold or another nod to nature-by-design. The effect of these beauties side by side is magical, and you can imagine a Gilded Age beauty making an entrance with one of these dazzlers.
The Met just announced that its September 2022 Costume Institute exhibition would be displayed in the period rooms of the American Wing, so we’ll see if Mr. Bolton and his team deploy any period finery in the more-is-more 19th-century area.
Read more about pieces in this fantastic donation on the MetCollects blog and flip through close-ups of some the featured works.
New York museums are offering a full calendar of virtual events this week, including trips to Broadway history, hipster restaurants of the world, Buddhist virtual reality, and tributes to artistic genius. Take a look at the list here! Here are just a few highlights:
Do you miss Broadway? Learn about some little-known secrets behind hit shows today, Monday (April 12) at 5:30pm. It’s a rare chance to meet the president of the Rogers & Hammerstein Organization, Ted Chapin, who will be giving a behind-the-scenes look at the Great White Way in his program, From Follies to Flower Drum Song and Beyond. It’s the premiere of a conversation recorded last Fall with Broadway World’s Richard Ridge, courtesy of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
Love restaurants? Especially ones with slightly nostalgic post-industrial interiors decorated with that hand-crafted look? At 7pm, join the Museum of Food and Drink to meet the authors who explored how the Brooklyn aesthetic for How a Restaurant Aesthetic Became a Global Phenomenon. Learn how restaurants around the world adopted the style, and find out if this brand of hip actually started in Brooklyn.
On Tuesday (April 14) at 6pm, join the architecture crowd at the Skyscraper Museum to hear Mark Sarkisian, the structural and seismic engineer who is a partner at SOM in San Francisco. Mark designed one of Shanghai’s first supertalls back in 1999. His talk Pivot to China: How Jin Mao Portended Future Supertalls will explain how this tower’s innovations influenced the generation of supertall skyscrapers that followed.
Also at 6:30pm – an opportunity to understand your karma. Join the Rubin Museum of Art for The Game of Life: An Interactive Virtual Experience. A contemplative psychotherapist will guide participants through a virtual Buddhist Wheel of Life to finding liberation from negative habits and patterns. The virtual game takes you throughout the different floors of the museum, and provides twists and turns. There are “Hell” and “God” Zoom rooms, but the payoff is higher awareness of one’s state of mind.
On Thursday (April 15) at 11am, it’s what all of New York has been waiting for! Mika Yoshitake, the curator of New York Botanical Garden’s KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature will provide a look at how Kusama’s blockbuster installation reflects nature, the earth, the microscopic, and the cosmos. Cosmic Nature: Embracing the Unknown will present Mike’s insights about Kusama’s artistic language and her unrelenting, lifelong journey into new territory.
Want to go backstage at a McQueen show? At 6pm you can. Join Vogue photographer Robert Fairer at Museum at FIT for a live Q&A about his new book, Alexander McQueen: Unseen. Experience memorable moments of fashion’s greatest, most outrageous showman and see what a genius at work backstage before the show.
There’s a lot more happening this week, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.