By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Organizers of an art exhibit making its way around the Cowboy State hope that viewers will come away from the artwork with a sense of connection to the earth, and a more meaningful relationship with other cultures.
From March 30 through May 20, the Wyoming State Museum will showcase “Grounded,” an art exhibition organized by ArtSpirit, the arts initiative of Episcopal Church in Wyoming, and CARAVAN, a global arts nonprofit.
The exhibit features 15 different artists, from eight Indigenous tribes, each portraying a common theme – the need to be “grounded” in a relationship with all of creation.
“It’s focused very much on what we can learn from them, about really embracing indigenous culture and wisdom, to live well into the future,” said Paul-Gordon Chandler, the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Wyoming, whose international non-profit CARAVAN is organizing the exhibit’s tour.
“We look at what might be called their worldview of a sacred harmony, that beautiful balance between ourselves and the earth and all of life upon it, and the interconnectedness of it all,” said Chandler, “and how that leads to really a much more intentional and responsible way of living.”
Chandler noted that the artists were selected both because of their level of art and artisanship, and because their work would resonate with the greater objective of the exhibition.
“Not all, but most of the work was created specifically for this exhibit,” he said, “which includes everything from traditional contemporary portrayals using traditional art, such as beadwork, to much more contemporary expressions, stylistically – whether it be oil or acrylic, and/or mixed media.”
Artists involved in the project are:
• Ben Pease (Apsáalooke-Crow)
• Brent Learned (Arapaho/Cheyenne)
• Carlin Bear Don’t Walk (Apsáalooke-Crow/Northern Cheyenne)
• Donald F. Montileaux (Oglala Sioux)
• Henry Payer (Ho-Chunk)
• Hillary Kempenich (Anishinaabe)
• Jackie Larson Bread (Blackfeet)
• Jackie Sevier (Northern Arapaho)
• Jim Yellowhawk (Itazipco/Cheyenne River Sioux)
• Joanne Brings Thunder (Eastern Shoshone)
• John Pepion (Blackfeet)
• Louis Still Smoking (Blackfeet)
• Robert Martinez (Northern Arapaho)
• Talissa Abeyta (Eastern Shoshone)
• Wade Patton (Oglala Lakota)
The single three-dimensional piece in the exhibit, a globe created by Itazipco/Cheyenne River Sioux artist Jim Yellowhawk, speaks very directly to its theme, said Chandler.
“It kind of gives one perspective,” he said of the piece titled “Mitakuye Oyasin/We’re All Related.” “The interconnectedness that we have on the earth with everything else.”
Traveling Wyoming, Then the World
The “Grounded” exhibit first opened in Lander last fall at the Pioneer Museum and moved in January to the Nicolaysen Art Museum in Casper.
When it opens Thursday at the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne, there will be a special program and reception that will include the participating artists and an Indigenous drum circle.
Elisabeth DeGrenier, supervisor of exhibits and programs at the Wyoming State Museum, said they are excited to allow Native Americans of the Great Plains to share their stories with visitors.
“It’s really important to use our exhibit spaces to tell the stories of all Wyoming artists,” said DeGrenier.
From Cheyenne, the exhibit will move to Jackson and then to Worland, before finishing its in-state run in Rock Springs. But Chandler noted that one of the goals of the exhibit is to bring Wyoming artists to the world.
“We wanted others to benefit from the message of this exhibit, and learn from our Native American sisters and brothers,” he said. “So it will go to two venues in the US – one is already confirmed, and that’s the American University Museum in Washington, DC. And then it will travel to the United Kingdom, in London and Leicester, and then the UAE (United Arab Emirates).”
Chandler expressed his belief that art is a universal language that has the ability to dissolve the differences that divide us.
“The arts can actually be one of the most effective mediums to build the bridges that need to be built,” said Chandler, “and to enhance understanding, bring about respect, enable sharing, and certainly develop and deepen friendships between those of different backgrounds.”
Anyone interested in viewing the exhibit, but who might not be able to make the trek to the Wyoming State Museum, can get a virtual tour of “Grounded” at Caravan’s website. The site not only offers an interactive tour of the exhibit, but gives behind-the-scenes information about the art and the artist.