American Indian art exhibit hopes to inspire

Fabiana Torreao

In a small and bold drawing entitled, “The Three Bears,” an elder American Indian is portrayed in the late 1800s imprisoned in black and white.
Behind him, a colorful and vibrant painting by American Indian artist Frank Big Bear hangs on the wall. “The Three Bears,” by Starr Big Bear, Frank’s son, represents three generations of this Ojibwe family.
The Frank and Starr Big Bear works are displayed at the Weisman Art Museum as a part of two American Indian art exhibitions through Dec. 31.
“Listening with the Heart” presents the work of well established artists Frank Big Bear, George Morrison and Norval Morrisseau.
Initially developed around the idea that these three artists share an Ojibwe heritage, their work soon showed another similarity — a feeling of openness.
“You can connect with the artists on a spiritual level,” said Kathie Bennewitz, Weisman’s assistant curator. “These artists are each working in a way that invites the viewer to participate and reflect.”
“Contemporary Native Art in Minnesota,” an adjacent show, introduces the work of Starr Big Bear, Julie Buffalohead and Jim Denomie. Its 20 drawings and paintings complement “Listening with the Heart.”
Together, the two exhibitions pose the question of whether American Indian artists can be recognized as individuals without reference to their heritages.
These exhibitions help dispel stereotypes of American Indian artists, Bennewitz said. The artists present contemporary issues and contemporary modes of painting.
About 200 people have visited the exhibition daily, said museum guard Rebecca Abrahamson, a sophomore majoring in sociology.
“I’ve never seen Native American art before,” Abrahamson said. “It’s very interesting; the bright colors capture your attention.”
An array of media, such as oil, acrylic, collage, color pencil, ink and mixed media, are presented in the work of the six artists.
University art students might relate well with the work presented in “Contemporary Native Art in Minnesota,” since it presents the work of emerging artists.
“The work of these three artists would be very inspiring to young artists today,” Bennewitz said.

Fabiana Torreao welcomes comments at [email protected]