Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

Santa Fe, NM



Strong Hearts: Native American Visions and Voices


"Strong Hearts: Native American Visions and Voices," an exhibition of photographs of and by Native people in North America from the 1890s to the present, opens at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture June 11, 2000, and will remain in Santa Fe until September 17, 2000. The traveling exhibition sponsored by the Aperture Foundation originated at the Smithsonian Institution in 1996 and travels until 2001. (left: Monty Roessel (Navajo), Memories of the Long Walk, Bosque Redondo, NM,1992)

Aperture Foundation invited contemporary American Indian photographers throughout the United States to contribute work, hoping to generate a lively debate on photography's contribution to perceptions of Native cultures. The scope and diversity of their photographs - from intimate family portraits to expressionistic images of darkly emotional power - present a world apart from what most people imagine when they hear the words "Native American photography."

left to right: Horace Poolaw, Jerry Poolaw, Anadarko, Oklahoma, c. 1944; Lee Marmon (Laguna), Bennie, Laguna Pueblo, 1984; Zig Jackson (Mandan, Hidatsat/ Arikara), from the Indian Man in San Francisco series; 1993; Greg Staats (Mowhawk), Cheyenne Ringlero, 1994)

The exhibition remaps Indian territory from a Native perspective. The 96 photographs, 8 prints, 2 mixed media works and 13 text panels reveal many different truths about contemporary native life: images of pride, despair, joy, and anger by photographers who inhabit the world they portray.

left to right: Larry McNiel (Tlinglit/Nishgaa), Salt Water Grass Artists, from the series Yupik Ladies, Alaska, 1981; Richard Ray Whitman (Euchee/Creek), Self-portrait: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, 1993; Carm Little Turtle (Apache/Tarahumara), from the She Wished for a Husband... series, 1989; Larry McNiel (Tlinglit/Nishgaa), 1992, from the Feather series, 1992; Walter Bigbee (Comanche), Burst of Plumes, 1985)

"The strength and immediacy of these images alone demonstrates photography's power to alter convenient attitudes about indigenous peoples," says Dr. Duane Anderson, Director of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. When Native Americans make photographs, they grapple with complex questions of identity: questions about how they represent themselves as individuals and as members of both ancient and modern cultures. A kaleidoscopic range of expression suggests a subcontinent rich in both tradition and contradiction. "Strong Hearts" provides rare insight into Native culture, including scenes of Kiowa life by Horace Poolaw, one of the first professional Native American photographers; and views of contemporary Native life by Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nishgaa) and Greg Staats (Six Nations).

left to right: David Neel (Kwagiutl), Agnes Alfred, Namgis, Alert Bay, British Columbia, 1991; Jeffrey M.Thomas (Onondaga/Mowhawk), Amos Keye, Iroquois Confederacy, 1983; Ken Blackbird (Assiniboine), Eagle Staff, Biose, Idaho, 1990)

The images and texts from the exhibition hold compelling truths about personal identity, race, politics, family and society. More than artistic expressions, they are pictures of life. "Strong Hearts: Native American Visions and Voices" aims to stimulate real cultural exchange for a long time to come - and to convey the experiences and insights of Native artists defining their own.

Waiter BigBee (Comanche), a photography instructor at the Institute of American Indian Arts and a contributor to "Strong Hearts," will give a lecture on July 9 at 2 pm in the MIAC Theater.

Read more about the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Resource Library Magazine

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 2/28/11

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