The exhibition, titled “Broken Boxes” after Ginger Dunnill’s podcast of the same name, is displaying work from some of the people Dunnill has interviewed since starting her show in 2014. All the artists, activists or community organizers involved in the show are either Native American, queer-identifying or non-binary, transgender, women, or people of color.
“My main focus for the podcast is to celebrate artists that are outside of the scope of the cis(gender) white male format that is really prevalent in the art world,” said Dunnill, who is co-curating the show with husband and Native artist Cannupa Hanska Luger.
“I wanted to celebrate … people who are doing the really important work in society and often don’t get to share their stories in a personal way with community members that can really benefit from hearing what their work is doing,” she said.
Over the show’s opening weekend, form & concept gallery will stage several events, including an artist celebration Saturday afternoon and a panel discussion Sunday.
The “Broken Boxes” debut takes place on Indian Market weekend. Dunnill’s show includes works by Native activists, but she said she wants to bring artists together in a way that’s inclusive to all experiences. And indigenous artists are also able to break out of a certain “box” by showing with artists from other backgrounds, she said.
“Markets … box us into spaces that are healing because they’re exclusive to a certain experience but, in the world we live in today, we need to come together and align in a larger way,” Dunnill said. “There’s bigger monsters to fight.”
The opening weekend will include a traveling show, “Art of Indigenous Resistance” from the Honor the Earth organization, as well as an appearance and discussion at 5 p.m. today that features well-known Native activist Winona LaDuke, who ran as the vice-presidential candidate on Green Party tickets headed by Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000.
Dunnill charged the artists in the show to “break their box” creatively by going outside comfort zones or trying things they’ve wanted to do but never had platforms for.
Santa Fe fine art and commercial photographer Cara Romero said she followed that call on multiple levels. Her new photo, “TV Indians,” is her highest production project yet, and the piece takes the box-breaking idea literally by using old television sets – i.e., broken boxes.
The photo places Pueblo people on a Galisteo Basin clifftop in front of TVs whose screens are showing how indigenous people are displayed in the media. It’s a “parallel universe” from sources such as “Dances with Wolves” and the famous World War II photo “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” which shows six Marines, including the Pima tribe’s Ira Hayes, planting the American flag.
“Some of the [depictions are] good, some stereotypical, [but] all of them identifiable within our community,” said Romero, who found 40 TV sets for her picture by rummaging through an Albuquerque recycling center.
Ian Kauli’i, a native Hawaiian artist who will be doing an on-site demonstration on Saturday, wanted to break “storytelling norms” with his six-foot-tall installation. His hand-cut paper piece is based on a portrait of Kumu Hina, a transgender Native Hawaiian activist. The original photo of Hina is by Jess Snow, a fellow “Broken Boxes” exhibitor.
Being a heterosexual male artist comes with a responsibility to represent and highlight various groups of people, said Kauli’i, adding that he also wants to shed light on people from his own culture that held significant importance. “A lot of times, [trans people] get left out of the conversation, but they’re super important, just like the rest of us,” he said.
“We need to stop boxing ourselves out of each other’s narratives,” said Dunnill, echoing a similar sentiment. “We need to hold space for and acknowledge each other so we can move forward together.”
The show will be up until Oct. 28. All exhibition events are free and open to the public.