Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists at Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, February 21 – May 17, 2020

“Women have been a predominant creative force behind Native American art, yet their individual contributions, for centuries, have largely remained unrecognized and anonymous. In the first major thematic exhibition to explore the artistic contributions of Native women, Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists celebrates the achievements of these Native women and establishes their rightful place in the art world.

The presentation at the Renwick Gallery includes 82 artworks dating from ancient times to the present, made in a variety of media, from textiles and ceramics to sculpture, time-based media and photography. This exhibition is multi-lingual with wall text, audio recordings and labels presented in the artist’s Native American or First Nations languages, as well as English, aiming to present the works in the context of each artist’s own culture and voice.

The exhibition is organized according to three overarching themes: ‘Legacy,’ ‘Relationships’ and ‘Power.’ These themes are a testament to the underlying purpose with which Native women have historically made art and enable visitors to note variations in the works of art created for similar purposes across time and Native cultures.” — Renwick Gallery

Belcourt_Wisdom of the Universe

Christi Belcourt (Michif), The Wisdom of the Universe, 2014, acrylic on canvas, Collection Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Purchased with funds donated by Greg Latremoille, 2014, 2014/6. © Christi Belcourt


Sisíthuŋwaŋ Dakhóta artist, Tablecloth, 1900–1910, wool, glass beads, brass beads, and cotton thread, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 12/814. Photo by NMAI Photo Services


D. Y. Begay (Navajo), Náhookǫsjí Hai (Winter in the North)/Biboon Giiwedinong (It Is Winter in the North), 2018, wool and natural dyes, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Jane and James Emison Endowment for Native American Art, 2019.41. Photo: Addison Doty; Minneapolis Institute of Art. © D. Y. Begay


Elizabeth Hickox (Wiyot), Lidded container, ca. 1924, twining and porcupine quills, Denver Art Museum Collection: Purchase from Grace Nicholson, 1946.388A-B. Photograph © Denver Art Museum


Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone–Bannock), Adaptation II, 2012, shoes designed by Christian Louboutin, leather, glass beads, porcupine quills, sterling silver cones, brass sequins, chicken feathers, cloth, deer rawhide, and buckskin, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Bequest of Virginia Doneghy, by exchange 2012.68.1A,B. Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art. © 2012 Jamie Okuma

Parrish_The Next Generation

Cherish Parrish (Ottawa/Pottawatomi), The Next Generation—Carriers of Culture, 2018, black ash and sweetgrass, Courtesy of Cherish Parrish – Odawa & Pottawatomi – Gun Lake Band. Photo by Richard Church, Odawa-Pottawatomi. © Cherish Parrish

2014.93.1; 2014.93.2; 2014.93.3a,b

Keri Ataumbi (Kiowa/Comanche)/Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone–Bannock), Adornment: Iconic Perceptions, 2014, antique glass, 24-karat electroplated beads, buckskin, 18-karat yellow gold, sterling silver, wampum shell, freshwater pearls, rose and brilliant-cut diamonds and diamond beads, diamond briolettes, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of funds from The Duncan and Nivin MacMillan Foundation, 2014.93.1-3a,b. Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art. © 2014 Keri Ataumbi and Jamie Okuma

Nez Perce_bag

Nimi’ipuu (Nez Perce) artist, Bag, ca. 1900, corn husk, yarn, rawhide, and wool, Denver Art Museum Collection: Gift of Dr. Charles J. Norton, 1986.261. Photograph © Denver Art Museum

Diesing_Mask, Old Woman with Labret

Freda Diesing (Haida), Mask, Old Woman with Labret, 1974, alderwood, paint, hair, cedar bark, abalone, glass beads, moose hide, bone or plastic, Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum, RBCM15057. Photo: Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives. © Canadian Westcoast Art

Hill_Women's Voices at the Council

Joan Hill (Muskogee Creek and Cherokee), Women’s Voices at the Council, 1990, acrylic on canvas, Gift of the artist on behalf of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, 1990, Oklahoma State Art Collection, courtesy of the Oklahoma Arts Council. © Joan Hill


Ramona Sakiestewa (Hopi), Nebula 22 & 23 (diptych), 2009, tapestry, wool warp and dyed wool weft, Collection of Carl and Marilynn Thoma, 2009.021a-b. © 2009 Ramona L. Sakiestewa, courtesy of and photo by the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation

Kay Walkingstick Project for NMAI, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC

Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee), Venere Alpina, 1997, oil on canvas (left), steel mesh over acrylic, saponified wax, and plastic stones (right), Minneapolis Institute of Art, The David and Margaret Christenson Endowment for Art Acquisition, 2018.46a,b. Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art. © Kay WalkingStick ’97.


Rebecca Belmore (Anishinaabe), Fringe, 2007, transparency in light box (one of an edition of three), Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of funds from Donna and Cargill MacMillan Jr., 2010.56. © Rebecca Belmore


Rosalie Favell (Métis [Cree/English]), The Collector/The Artist in Her Museum, 2005, digital print, Courtesy of the artist. © 2005, Rosalie Favell

Grant and Davidson_dress

Dorothy Grant (Haida) with Robert Davidson (Haida/Tlinglit), Hummingbird Copper Dress, 1989, wool, Denver Art Museum Collection: Native Arts acquisition fund, 2010.490 A-C. Photograph © Denver Art Museum. © 1989 Dorothy Grant and Robert Davidson


Apsáalooke (Crow) artist, Dress, ca. 1930, cotton, bead, bone, skin, wool, and colorant, Denver Art Museum Collection: The L. D. and Ruth Bax Collection, 1985.46. Photograph © Denver Art Museum

Kelly Church - Sustaining Traditions

Kelly Church (Ottawa/Pottawatomi), Sustaining Traditions—Digital Memories, 2018, black ash, sweetgrass, Rit dye, copper, vial EAB, and flash drive with black ash teachings, Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Richard Church, Odawa-Pottawatomi. © Kelly Church

Growing Thunder_Give Away Horses

Joyce Growing Thunder Fogarty (Dakhóta/Nakoda), Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty (Dakhóta/Nakoda), and Jessa Rae Growing Thunder (Dakhóta/Nakoda), Give Away Horses (dress and accessories), 2006, deer hide, glass beads, canvas, thread, leather, moose hide, German silver, porcupine quills, feathers, elk hide, brass bells, ribbon, silk ribbons, and brass thimbles, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 26/5818-5821. Photo by NMAI Photo Services. © J Growing Thunder


Central Yup’ik, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, artist, Parka, 1890–1910, seal intestine, sinew, walrus fur, aniline dyes, animal hide, polar bear fur, and thread, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Eugene Victor Thaw Art Foundation, Thaw Collection of American Indian Art, T0763. Photo: John Bigelow Taylor, NYC


Nellie Two Bear Gates (Gathering of Clouds Woman, Iháƞktȟuƞwaƞna Dakhóta, Standing Rock Reservation), Valise, 1880–1910, beads, hide, metal, oilcloth, and thread, Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Robert J. Ulrich Works of Art Purchase Fund, 2010.19. Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art


Innu (Naskapi) artist, Hunting coat, ca. 1750, caribou hide and pigment, Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Robert J. Ulrich Works of Art Purchase Fund, 2012.27. Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art


Andrea Carlson (Ojibwe), Sunshine on a Cannibal, 2015, oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, and graphite on paper, Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Mr. and Mrs. Bernard M. Granum Fund 2017.29A-X. Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art. © 2015 Andrea Carlson

Marianne Nicolson "The Container for Souls"

Marianne Nicolson (Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw, Dzawada̱’enux̱w First Nations), Bax̱wa̱na’tsi: The Container for Souls, 2006, Glass, cedar, light fixtures, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Purchased with funds donated by the Audain Foundation, VAG, 2007.4.1 a-c, Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery.

Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists was organized by Jill Ahlberg Yohe, associate curator of Native American Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Teri Greeves, an independent curator and member of the Kiowa Nation. Robyn Kennedy, Renwick Gallery manager, coordinated the presentation in Washington, D.C. Anya Montiel, curator of American and Native American women’s art and craft.

Images courtesy Renwick Gallery.