MIAC exhibit gets an update

MIAC exhibit gets an update

With its glittering pottery, stunning jewelry and modernism-meets-Native paintings, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture is unveiling a makeover.

Years in the making, its new permanent exhibition “Here, Now and Always” features more than 600 objects including ceramics, basketry, textiles, fashion and more. Supporters raised $2.1 million in private donations and grants for the exhibition.

“It had been up for over 20 years,” co-curator Antonio Chavarria said. “It is our core exhibition and a generation has gone by.”

Painter Marla Allison’s newly installed triptych “Water Girls,” 2017 (Laguna Pueblo) represents the artist’s version of the sepia-toned Edward Curtis photos of Native people. Allison created the piece during the Standing Rock protests over the Dakota Access pipeline, the subject of lengthy court battles.

“It’s that idea of holding water as sacred,” Chavarria said. “It’s just ingrained within the cultures here.”

Allison superimposed Laguna Pueblo and Hopi designs over Curtis’ images, speaking back to the power dynamics inherent in his legacy. Today, his photographs face criticism for presenting a romanticized notion of Native American life, while neglecting the harsh reality in which they lived.

A 2½-inch tall beaded figure by Navajo artist Sheila Antonio, ca. 2000, represents a World War II code talker. The “code” was often the soldier’s everyday Native language, but both the Navajo and Hopi people developed many more complex codes .

“It’s their dress when they appear in parades,” Chavarria said of the beaded depiction.

A circa 1920 silver squash blossom necklace (Navajo) dangles 38 globular beads and 24 three-petal squash blossoms anchored by a large double arm cross pendant or dragonfly.

The artist included an elk’s tooth, a signature, adjacent to the clasp.

Cases dating to 1997 received updating; the old versions required three people to open them, Chavarria said. Staffers replaced old VHS video technology with iPads.

“We have iPads with individual interviews with community members,” he added.

Sheldon Nuñez-Velarde’s (Jicarilla Apache), 2017, double water jar combines an historic piece with a more contemporary version.

Nuñez-Velarde’s use of micaceous clay expands upon the earlier artist’s use of a micaceous slip.

“He is the new director of their cultural center,” Chavarria said. “He also helped install the Jicarilla Apache tepee in the exhibit.”

The working tepee was used for small groups during the tribe’s September festival, known as the Go-Jii-Ya celebration, which includes runners, Chavarria added.

Five in-house curators removed some of the objects from the previous exhibition for conservation reasons. Added pieces were new acquisitions and purchases. Staff members organized the artwork under themes of ancestors, survival and resilience, and creative exchange, among other designations. They also sought input from outside curators located in New Mexico’s 19 pueblos, the Apache, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (El Paso) and the Hopi tribe in Arizona, as well as the Navajo/Diné, Paiute and O’odham communities.

The cost of the revamp came from public and private partnerships, as well as the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, plus $1.6 million in private donations.

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