Behold the beaded bikini, one of several noteworthy pieces telling a modern tale of contemporary Native American Art exhibited in the current Southwest Michigan show titled Tomorrow's Stories. Brought to our community by the local hub of higher creativity, The Saugatuck Center for the Arts, the show displays two and three-dimensional works by five celebrated Native artists, including the pictured piece - or perhaps two-piece - from Summer Peter's Beyond Buckskin Fashions. In a number of mediums, from baskets to sculpture to wearable and decorative items, creators offer a fresh perspective of what Traditional Native American Art was and is. Peter's calls the beaded beachwear "Decolonize Your Glitch", envisioning "women of all sizes being able to be comfortable in their skin and unashamed" when she created it.
Recognizing native concepts everywhere in popular American culture, from local and organic food, fashion, art, design, alternative medicine, holistic health, “going green”, and even gentrification - the artists reinterpret the modern indigenous experience, breaking out of boxes built by the traditions of yesterday, and contributing to the conversation of moving contemporary art forward. " I believe that all of American Contemporary Art is based on Traditional Native American concepts, motifs, sensibilities, and aesthetics - starting with the Land, " writes Guest Curator Dakota Shayne, "Original colonizers of America arrived on the shoreline describing indigenous peoples as primitive and uncivilized, but that perception may or may not be accurate. If we take a fresh look, with an open mind, we may discover that this new world called America was actually a concept of life and way of thinking that colonizers never experienced before. This new world was full of Spirit, expression, design, organic farming, environmentalism and tolerance. From that perspective, the traditional Native American doesn't seem primitive - but actually contemporary."
I was honored to join this small circle of indigenous modernism early Saturday morning with a group from the SCA, visiting Jason Quigno's Grand Rapids studio. The sculptor, of Saginaw Chippewa descent, works in a cool, dust laden, green-grey art cavern with vital stone forms drawing from Ceremony and tradition. "My people, our culture, and the way we exist as a tribe in the modern world continues to evolve; it is not static, " says Quigno. "Our stories and traditions remain vibrant, and my art work is a means by which I can express my gratitude and love of this good life." The Fall show runs through early November, with community and education outreach, a fashion event, and a showing of the Sundance Film Festival winner RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World, an acclaimed feature documentary about the role of Native Americans in popular music history.
Go ahead and hate your neighbor
Go ahead and cheat a friend
Do it in the name of Heaven
You can justify it in the end
There won't be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day
On the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away
-The Legend of Billy Jack