Muscarelle exhibit crosses cultural lines

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February 13, 2007

8:53 AM

American Indian artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith is the subject of a new collection now on display at the Muscarelle Museum of Art.

p. The exhibit, entitled “Jaune Quick-To-See Smith: Contemporary Native American Paintings and the Response to Colonization … Anniversary of the Beginning … Beginning of the End,” coincides with the upcoming celebration of the Jamestown 400th Anniversary.

p. At the time of European settlement in the Americas, millions of American Indians suffered from the introduction of small pox and other diseases into their communities, as well as from cultural subjugation. Smith uses the mistreatment of her ancestors as inspiration for her art.

p. Included in the exhibit are numerous historically contextual documents such as a map belonging to explorer John Smith, a 17th-century charter and letters from U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, all of which belong to the College and serve to enlighten viewers about American Indian and colonial history. The artist’s work, however, is not strictly historical. Dr. Aaron De Groft, director of the Muscarelle, describes it as “looking at the past, but also looking ahead — not just at the then but also now.”

p. The exhibit is also a testament to the role of art in preserving a culture, according to Smith. “We American Indians are alive everywhere across this nation. American Indians have consistently endured, using humor and art as part of our cultural support system. We are here to stay,” she said.

p. Smith said her artwork sends a message that radiates beyond the immediate realm of concern for American Indian tradition. Through her work, she addresses political, environmental and social issues that transcend barriers of race and ways of life. “My art is created from a Native worldview. That belief is that the world and all its living matter … are all tied together in what’s been described as the great net,” she said.

p. De Groft elaborated, stressing several inherent human acts that are represented in Smith’s work. “It’s about trade, it’s about land, civil rights, travel, all sorts of things,” he said.

p. Smith draws inspiration from her life experiences and heritage, and manifests her concern for the preservation of American Indian tradition using a variety of mediums, including watercolors, collage and prints. A unique aspect of her work is its multifaceted use of cartoons, contemporary culture, classical literary and artistic allusions from works such as Picasso’s “Guernica” or Shakespeare and traditional American Indian symbolism. “There are political overtones that are in some ways subtle, in some ways not so subtle,” De Groft said.

p. The result is art that critics have called interesting and thought-provoking, and that conveys an appreciation for a worldview of acceptance and tolerance.

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