Carly Feddersen spent 100 hours weaving her basket “Coyote and the Monster That Ate Everyone.”
Based on a traditional Plateau story, the 8-by-6-inch piece depicts Coyote brandishing a torch as deer, bears, fox, butterflies and rattlesnakes flee the monster.
Feddersen is one of 13 Native artists chosen to exhibit in “Self-Determined: A Contemporary Survey of Native and Indigenous Art” now open at Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Arts. Through film, installation, photography, sound, beadwork and more, the artists explore environmental themes and mythologies, using both tradition and technology as tools of preservation.
Co-curated by executive director Danyelle Means (Oglala Lakota) and Kiersten Fellrath, the exhibition draws its political title from a Nixon-era policy, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act of 1975. The measure gave federally-recognized tribes the ability to make decisions for themselves. It marked the first governmental policy not based on assimilation or genocide.
The show reinterprets “self-determination” as an act of reclamation and revolution, as well as self-expression.
“Their parents or community weren’t able to do that until the late ’60s or early ’70s,” said Means, CCA executive director. “That came in various ways.”
Feddersen learned her woven waxed linen technique from her uncle, Joe Feddersen, a Colville sculptor, painter, photographer and mixed-media artist.
A 2016 Institute of American Indian Arts graduate, Carly Feddersen focused on metallurgy and jewelry making. She will return for an Institute of American Indian Arts residency this month.
Her monster’s triangular teeth encircle the top and the bottom of the basket.
“It’s the story of Coyote slaying the monster,” she said in a telephone interview from Wenatchee, Washington. Feddersen is of Okanogan, Arrow Lakes, German and English heritage. “In the back, you’re looking into the monster’s mouth; you can see his teeth. Coyote is directing everyone to run.”
She spent about an hour weaving each round.
“A lot of our Coyote stories are about making the world better,” Feddersen explained. “Sometimes, it’s about watching Coyote make mistakes. It teaches people what not to do. It teaches them also to be brave.”
Dyani White Hawk (Sicangu Lakota) brought film capturing 24 women speaking their Indigenous language.
“She wanted to create a chorus of Native languages,” Means said. “There are no captions, there are no titles. You’re eavesdropping without understanding. This was happening in the U.S. with hundreds of Native languages. Can you distinguish Lakota from Tewa? These languages have developed for millennia. People were not allowed to speak or teach them.”
Photographer Jeremy Dennis (Shinneock) brought four still shots of “Sunksquaw, A Return to Female Leadership” from his “RISE” series.
The central figure is zombie-like.
Dennis is using humor and pop culture references as metaphors.
Erica Lord (Tanana Athabascan, Inupiaq, Finnish, Swedish, English and Japanese), an instructor at Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts, turned microscopic disease patterns into woven beadwork.
Fascinated by traditional tribal burden baskets and baby straps, she applied them to her own life.
“My burden that I carried was diabetes,” she said.
A friend who was a microbioloist began showing her pixeled, gridded images of disease. Then Lord discovered square, 4 mm glass beads.
“It made sense to translate that,” she said. “I had one of those few ‘Aha’ moments.”
Unable to find a bead loom big enough for her sometimes 8-feet-long pieces, she hammered one together using materials from Home Depot.
“I just built one,” she said. “My background is sculpture.”
Lord most recently created a series of sled dog blankets in tribute to the canines who carried medication to Nome, Alaska during the diphtheria epidemic of the 1920s.
Lord grew up in the tiny village of Nenana, Alaska. She drove her first dog sled at the age of 3. Her mother made woven rugs.
“Even now, I don’t know where I got the idea of being an artist,” she said.
Both Lord’s and Feddersen’s work will be featured in “Sharing Honors and Burdens” at the Renwick Museum in Washington, D.C. in May 2023.