NATIVE FUTURES - INAUGURAL EXHIBITION
SEPTEMBER 16, 2023 - MAY 17, 2024
Camille "Katahtu'ntha" Billie
Oneida and Diné
River Bend | Linoleum block print
River Bend is a Linocut print made from water-based ink and acid-free paper. The carving to make the print was born from a story about a leviathan-sized snake who lived in a river near a village. They were once a very small snake but met one person who would feed them. Continuing to grow, they were demanding more from that person and had continued consuming all of the animals and eventually ate that person and the community members living nearby. The village noticed when people would go off into the woods but would not come back. They didn't know of the snake or that it had been eating those who were not returning.
Toward the end of the story, the protagonist tells the few about the snake and asks if they would make and share food with them periodically in exchange for removing the snake. The remaining community members felt the ask was too good to be true: make and share a simple food together for the removal of a snake that seemed to only grow larger and consume more. Yes, precisely, and so the community members learned the recipe. They prepared dried white corn into flour and made a dough, mixed in beans, and boiled in water. They shared and ate together and expressed their appreciation. The next day, the rivers ran red, and the snake was gone.
The snake was born from and washed away in the same soil and water we come from and return to. Like all beings who live and pass, we carry, build up, and leave behind things similar to the exchanges had on a river bend. I do my best to remain mindful of my exchanges with hope to not feed a snake that will consume me, the environment, or my neighbors. I hope to contribute medicines and space the way the community members did in the story that inspired this piece and hopefully prevent losses like the character who first fed the snake.
Lakota, Dakota, Shoshone-Paiute, and European
Untitled (black fringe) | Canvas, MX dye, and beads
I explore art and design in a way that merges natural and geometric elements through a variety of mediums, including fiber arts and cut paper works. The subject matter varies from abstract to realistically illustrative depending on the concept and series. My most recent series of works are cut and dyed canvas fringe pieces. With these works, I am exploring the embellishments found on clothing and bringing them to the forefront in the form of these large-scale pieces. By allowing the canvas to fall apart during the making process, I am continuing to explore these pieces movement and the passage of time.
Praise Be I, II, III | Mixed media on ledger
$3,000 each (small), $6,500 (large)
The title comes from a saying one might hear in Margret Atwell’s A Handmaid’s Tale, a not-so-implausible, post-apocalyptic story. As Native Americans, we are living our own post-apocalyptic tale right now. These works are a synopsis of what “Futurism” could mean: past, present and future, and they are meant to be viewed (or read) counter-clockwise, disregarding the Euro-Christian constructs of linear time.
I. Marquette arrives in the Great Lakes region (when recorded history “officially” begins for the area) with an invasion force following closely behind. Due to his arrogance and sense of superiority, he is unaware that his knowledge is equal (or inferior?) to the “heathens” he has sworn to convert. The universal human truth of life is represented by the Merkaba floating above his hand
II. In our post-apocalyptic existence, the knowledge of the past is burning within us, and the colonizers look on with a worried curiosity. Everyone wants a piece of our culture but cannot approach it in the right way.
III. In the end, colonial constructs are no longer sustainable. We continue learning from the lessons of the past to secure a better future for our descendants.
The nudity in the work is not intended to objectify women but is antithetical to the forced Christianity that affects us to this day. It is also meant as an expression of humanity (and sacredness) that is often erased from Native American representation. The nude “Native” figures mere blocks from this location are a perfect example of this; their nudity exudes savagery and naiveté, thus making them “lesser” and deserving of conversion and subversion.
Tozodizin (P+A20rayer Dahodiyinii (Sacred Places) | Archival pigment print
Inquire with Bruce Silverstein Gallery for price
The vastness of Dinétah (the Diné homeland) is rich with the narratives that exist within the landscape. The Diné holds a close relationship to our home, and each area has sacred significance and places of stories. Diné visit these places to connect to our ancestors and connect with the powers of the land. Through these interrelated places, we never forget that we exist within a larger story, one that is part of a much larger living system that includes the water, earth, canyons, and plants. It is through these places that healing can begin.
Hwéeldi (Bosque Redondo) is the site that was the final stop in what was known as the Long Walk for the Diné, a painful removal of my ancestors from their home. Hwéeldi is the Diné name for Fort Sumner, located in central New Mexico. It is a place of extreme hardship where many of my Diné ancestors were imprisoned from 1864 to 1868. During this period, many Diné perished and were unable to return to their home, and the only existing photographs erased our identity, romanticizing our pain. The stories remembered come from the elders, where each story was passed on from one generation to the next. Many of these stories and the history of Hwéeldi were omitted from U.S. history books, furthering the effects of colonialism. While the stories existed, many elders choose not to tell these stories, believing that further harm can come from these memories. This project provides the platform for carefully using photography and oral narratives to offer healing for those who came before us and future generations.
While the stories of Hwéeldi are withheld, and responses to such death and violence are not to be taken lightly, there is a need to carry these stories of resilience. Each photograph represents the lost stories of our ancestors who don't exist in the minimal records kept within Fort Sumner. Like the effects of Covid, many of the individuals lost are only represented by numbers. Our stories open up opportunities to see our history as a continuum of our traditions and culture. While the Long Walk to Hwéeldi happened more than a hundred years ago, it is still with us, and we must remember what happened. This has held true to our current situation of Covid and the second most significant loss of Diné life. Through the memories of our home, we were able to persevere and continue our traditions and stories. This moment in our history defined a new era of sovereignty, one of resilience and survival, and reminds us of the struggles for the rights of our land, natural resources, and freedom.
It wasn't until the passing of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978 that my own people were allowed the freedom to practice our ceremonies, collect sacred materials, and visit our sacred sites that have existed long before the birth of our nation. This is just one reminder of how very recently the freedom of spiritual practices of the Americas’ Indigenous people were allowed and the trauma that resulted from it. Through the camera, traditionally seen as an oppressive weapon, I challenge documentation of Indigenous people by decolonizing the violent visual history of colonialism. Through my work, I provide the opportunity to heal and allow the land and its natural materials to tell our stories.
Jemez Pueblo, Korean
Ancestors Speak (a visual repatriation) | Digital images printed on antique ledger paper, copper leaf, birch panels (12 pieces)
NFS to problematic museums, inquire with artist
The ancestral pottery depicted in this piece physically lives in a natural history museum where I once worked. They don’t belong there, but they are there in the possession of the museum because they were either unwillingly taken or stolen. This piece is my attempt to rescue them, to rescue my ancestors, to free their spirits, and to share their visual language so we may hear them speak once again.
Hattie Lee Mendoza
Cherokee Britannica | Mixed media
I have childhood memories of Grandma and Mom's encyclopedia sets taking up large quantities of space on their shelves. Rarely cracked open, when the books came into focus beyond the haze of "things that just exist," one of them would reminisce about how expensive they were when new or how they used to reference them all the time and read them for fun.
I found a partial set someone was throwing out and wanted to reimagine a new life for something once so prized. Noticing, but not surprised at, the limited information about Native American tribes, I wanted to add my own voice to them. I took the covers off, used paint chips left over at the office I work at, German, Spanish, and English book pages from another book being thrown out, as well as colored pencil, to collage basketry patterns in abstract shapes onto each cover.
Working through this piece, I considered the collage of my own mixed heritage as well as the influences and messages taught to each generation before me. I recognize the impact of my elder's nostalgia and material histories while figuring out how to reflect my own experience and values among them.
Spectrums Within Under Our Skin | Crayola Crayon, brass pins
Spectrums Within Under Our Skin is 144 girls made from Crayola Crayon. There are 12 different girls; each girl is made from the 12 colors I see when I look at the color spectrum that forms a beam of light. I wish we could see the light within us all and the variations that make each of us that light, passing through a prism showing the many spectrums within us all. We are more than classifications regarding a position between two extremes; we are all the colors and an untold number of possibilities. It takes all these colors to create the light.
Nanaw ‘ igwan | Cotton and wool fabrics, indigo and Rit dyes, polyester ribbon, artificial sinew, copper cones
Nanaw ‘ igwan, meaning ‘in the middle of it,’ alludes to our worldview as Potawatomi people. Our original teachings speak of the way we, as human beings, fit in amongst all the other creatures and spirits of this place. The land and water provide such a healthy and beautiful life that we are required to acknowledge the spirit of each and every being who shares this space with us. In this way, we accept that we are not at the pinnacle of power but rather that we are sustained by all the powerful spirits surrounding us. My tribal ancestors have lived in this area of the southern Great Lakes since the beginning of time, enjoying a bountiful life provided to us by the rich, lush environment of Lake Michigan. For countless generations, we have lived, shared, and prayed with other Tribes in the region. What is now known as Chicago, this place has long been a worldwide center of trade, technology, and intellectual human advancement. Look around you, and you’ll see all the ways in which the Potawatomi are referenced in the names of buildings, streets, historical accounts, and mythical storylines. The influence we have and the accomplishments we’ve made in this great city are proof that our way of life has meaning to all of humanity. We will continue to be ‘in the middle of it’: the past, present, and future of Chicago.
Song for Truth | Screenprint, acrylic, felt, and ribbon
“On September 27, 1874, Tonkawa scouts, under the command of Colonel Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, peered into a giant crevice in the High Plains that would come to be known as Palo Duro Canyon. Below them, Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne lodges lined the canyon floor for miles; hundreds of horses grazed the curing grass.”
— Henry Chappell, “Bone of Conciliation,” Orion Magazine (September/October 2008).
In 1874, the US Military leader Ranald S. Mackenzie ordered the 4th US Cavalry troops to slaughter an estimated 1400 horses and mules in the Tule Canyon belonging to the Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne people who had set up camp in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas. This act of genocide contributed to the forced removal of the Comanche people to the present-day Wichita Mountain area of Lawton, Oklahoma, which is my home.
I screenprint and paint on a variety of materials such as naugahyde, felt, and paper. The images I use are abstract representations of what’s above, on and below the land. While painting, drawing, and printing. I am thinking about how we contribute to society and the challenges we face currently and in our future. I consider the importance of place, being grounded with oneself, and our quest to discover more about who we are as a people.
Song for Truth was created to honor, remember, and respect the Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne people and their horses.
Ji Hae Yepa-Pappan
Kanza, Lakota, Osage, Jemez Pueblo, Korean
in flux | Dance performance video
Life is a dance, and humans are constantly in motion. I believe the act of dancing is taking these living movements and giving them intention, showing humanity, and allowing a space for vulnerability in a pure form. Creating art is showing vulnerability, and one of my goals is to bring together different art forms to create unique and meaningful pieces. As a dancer, I inform my movement through ballet foundations and manipulate balletic qualities to show myself more authentically. In my efforts to bring a non-eurocentric approach to ballet, I integrate elements of jazz and modern into my movement style as well. I approach the processes of class and rehearsal with a strong work ethic to expand on my kinesthetic knowledge, apply new information to my movement, and build on my ability to blend different stylistic elements. Aesthetically, I am drawn to soft, fluid, and flowing movement and enjoy contrasting it with stronger, sharper movements. In creating movement, I often draw from internal experiences rather than external, and this allows me to fully put myself into my movement, whether it is being performed by myself or others. As humans, we are all more similar than we think, and being vulnerable allows us to connect and relate to each other in a way that lets us realize our similarities. I use my vulnerability in my movement to connect to other dancers, the audience, myself, and the music.
The Sun Through the Darkness | Acrylic on wood panel
NFS, inquire with artist
Ceres and her daughter, Proserpina, lived quietly in Osage County until they were targeted by Pluto and Jupiter in the mid-1920s. Upon observing Proserpina, Pluto abducted her in a chariot and took her away to Hades. As Ceres searched for her daughter, she blighted the land, and when Proserpina’s location in Hades was revealed to her, she asked Jupiter for Proserpina’s release. But unlike Calliope’s song in which Jupiter imposed a compromise allotting Prosperina’s time between Ceres on Earth and Pluto in Hades, Ceres was struck down. Faced with this grief and her own possible demise, Proserpina, daughter of Ceres, bravely found her own way out of Hades for good.
Chicago’s Natives; Blackash, sweetgrass, white cedar bark, birch bark, shells, copper cones
Chicago has been homeland to Natives since before this country existed. The Anishnabe, consisting of the Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa, known as the "Three Fires," were the first Natives to inhabit Chicago. In the 1950's, the American Indian Relocation Act encouraged Native Americans from tribes all over the US to move to urban areas in cities such as Los Angeles, Denver, Cleveland, Seattle, and Chicago. Today, Chicago has a community of over 30,000 Natives from over 100 different tribal communities. They established their own inter-tribal communities in Chicago, and the All Tribes American Indian Center and St. Augustine's Center for American Indians were founded in 1954 and still exist today. Natives in Chicago wear many hats and live and work in various roles throughout the city as residents of Zhegagoynak, the Anishnabe word for Chicago. To take us into the future and beyond, we have The Center For Native Futures showcasing the finest art from Native residents and throughout the US.
Yellow Star | Oil painting
"Yellow Star” Portrait of Orlando Ike" is a tribute to storytelling and the healing journey. Through my series of portraits, I aim to portray indigenous individuals in a positive light, emphasizing the reclamation of identity, sovereignty, and traditional ways of life. Orlando Ike's strength and grace symbolize the power of identity beyond societal perceptions, with each brushstroke conveying self-determination and self-representation.
Memory is, at the core, a collective reservoir of generational experiences and wisdom. Orlando Ike serves as a bridge between past and present, offering healing through transforming Narratives.
This artwork embodies my artistic philosophy—celebrating identity, resilience, memory, and healing. It calls us to reclaim and reshape our stories, paying homage to the enduring spirit of our communities. Through art, we embark on a transformative journey towards understanding, healing, and a more harmonious world.
First Name: You, Me & Mom | Shale rock, maple samara, sunflower, acorn hat, ash from prescribed burn on prairie land, Mexican buckeye, freshwater clam shell, snail shell, catalpa seed, conifer seed, cottonwood leaf, coneflower, wild bergamot, loess soil, tobacco, cedar, sweet grass
In collaboration with place and kin, I began this ephemeral installation as a living conversation that will continue to grow and evolve during the next several months as I come into greater relationship with Chicagoland and the relatives who call this place home. Guided by motifs associated with making camp or making a home, over time, the installation will expand, covering the wall like a good blanket - the kind offered to relatives as a gift or that covers the window during a cold winter. The starting design is an act of grounding and self-location, bringing relatives from my childhood home in Oklahoma into conservative with newer relationships forming in Chicago, to create a stylized constellation that represents my connection to the matriarchs that raised me and honors the ways in which I have been cared for by Indigenous matriarchs in all places, through all time, just as I am cared for and care for my beyond-human-kin and the procedures of place, time, and continuance.
Dokna (Awaken); Mixed mediums printed on aluminum
This piece signifies my second attempt at confronting my domestic violence experience through visualization. Thinking of womxn who have kept silent in their pain, I want to let go of my shame and share. The reflected figures call each other as the background reveals the impact and inner turmoil of these experiences. The red handprints are scattered and vary in transparency, yet their marks remain but do not define the figures. Through the cacophony of doubt and self-reflection, there is healing and strength if only they awaken.
Featuring readings by Patrick Del Percio (Cool Water, Sweet Water), Kai Minosh Pyle (Funereal Dirge for Silence), Demian DinéYazhi (We Left Them Nothing - excerpt)
Studies in Cultural Appropriation | Photography
$1,100-1,300 each, inquire with artist
What happens when cultural appreciation from a deeply rich culture becomes a fashion accessory? The cultural appropriation of Native American knowledge, designs, and spirituality has been a constant throughout American and global history. It began with the founding fathers of the United States through their adoption and creation of the constitution from the Iroquois Confederacy’s practice of governing themselves. This consumption and marketing of American Indian culture have continued with the fashion industry, the Boy Scouts, fraternal orders, hippies, mascots, Halloween costumes, sweat lodge ceremonies, and plastic toys from China and Japan, to name a few. This admiration and adoption of Native culture have happened throughout the centuries from the cross-pollination of ideas and trade.
When does the cross-fertilization of ideas get taken too far, and the cultural significance of an object or design become purely aestheticized? The fashion industry should be conscious of the meaning embedded within Indigenous communities’ designs. Fashion designers need to be aware of the difference between cultural exchange and the copying/stealing of cultural intellectual property from native communities. This issue is very complex, but both the consumer and designer require an inherent awareness of when cultural appropriation is viewed as offensive or respectful by the group from which the inspiration is derived.
GHOST TOUCH: Synesthesia | Handtufted
GHOST TOUCH originated as a visual essay for the Quarantine Times, created in 2020 during the height of Covid. The work was conceived as a representation of the severed and fragmented virtual self, yearning for physical interaction and connection during a time of isolation. A prelude to exploring notions of a post-human world, the multi-layered striations of truth unveiled in the concept over time have manifested through a constellation of digital work over the past few years, including a gesture-controlled video game created for the MCA Chicago and a hovering holographic display of collections permanently installed at the Field Museum. The artist has evolved the original concept into a new Phygital (Physical x Digital) series, creating a new tactile fiber work paired with a limited non-fungible token. The synthetic representation of the original concept permeates the work through every fiber, pondering the outcome of the digital self outlasting the physical or vice versa.