Blue Winds Dancing: The Whitecloud Collection of Native American Art
November 10 - February 17, 2008
Unique traditions, culture, and creativity from the original creators of American Art are captured in one remarkable art collection and celebrated in the exhibition Blue Winds Dancing: The Whitecloud Collection of Native American Art. The exhibition includes over 400 objects, collected over the last thirty years by Dr. Thomas and Mercedes Whitecloud, which capture the stories and legacies connecting generations of Native Peoples. Blue Winds Dancing is organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Many different cultures and all major regions of the United States are represented in Blue Winds Dancing, with the strongest focus on the Southern Woodlands, and also the Great Lakes, the traditional home of the Chippewa peoples.
Rather than focusing only on ancient objects, the Whitecloud Collection reflects harmony between historical and contemporary pieces. "It is equally split between objects made in the historical period and objects made by contemporary Native American artists," said Paul Tarver, NOMA's Curator of Native American Art. "The exhibition offers a diverse look at the arts of Native North Americans including beadwork, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, baskets, painted objects, and textiles. Every object tells a story in Blue Winds Dancing, providing a connection to past, present, and future generations."
Respect for traditions passed from generation to generation is of specific importance in Native American culture and evident in the Whitecloud's collection, particularly in traditions passed from mother to daughter. "A number of objects were made by men," says Tarver, "but in the Whitecloud Collection, 95% were made by Native American women." Evidence of this is present in a room dedicated to a Chitimacha family, the Dardens, who have been making baskets for eight generations. The Darden women passed their skills and techniques from generation to generation.
"The exhibition focuses on two themes: Sacred Imagery & Ritual Objects and Secular Objects & Enduring Traditions," says Tarver. A journey through the exhibition reveals how Native American spirituality and mythology are reflected in the arts. Objects include beautifully carved wood sculpture and stone pipes, and elaborately beaded and quilled objects such as bandoleer bags, moccasins and pipe bags. An extraordinary example of an ordinary object endowed with spirituality is an Eastern Chippewa buckskin and porcupine quill pouch (18th century). The front of the pouch depicts a quilled image of a thunderbird, a mythical spirit being. The pouch is functional, but the thunderbird symbol is sacred. The design of the pouch may have come from European soldiers who used a similarly styled pouch to carry gunpowder. However, the design and decoration for the Chippewa pouch suggests its purpose served more of a ritual function."
The objects in the Whitecloud Collection have a power photographs and words can only begin to describe. Seeing these objects up-close in the exhibition is a testament to the strength of craftsmanship and artistry in Native American art. The exhibition provides a visual narrative that communicates a power and strength of a culture with many enduring traditions.
the rich and powerful aesthetic traditions evident in Native American
art, the exhibition also includes objects created by contemporary
artists. "One of the things that is unique about our collection is the
fact that we collect artifacts as well as contemporary pieces," says
Mercedes. "We have a strong identity with enduring traditions." Artists
such as the Plains bead-workers Joyce and Juanita Growing Thunder and
the Choctaw bead-worker Jerry Ingram demonstrate that Native American
traditions are alive and thriving. Traditional beaded and quilled
items, such as clothing, dolls and horse masks, as well as new
approaches to ceramics, jewelry and easel painting are included in Blue Winds Dancing.
For more information please visit: The New Orleans Museum of Art