Kelly Church (Odawa & Pottawatomi, Gun Lake Band). Sustaining Traditions-Digital Memories, 2018. Black ash, sweetgrass, Ritdye, copper, vial EAB, and flash drive with black ash teachings. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Richard Church, Odawa & Pottawatomi. Copyright Kelly Church
Woven Being: Indigenous Art Histories of Chicagoland (working title) asks the question: What would it mean if Indigenous people with ties to this land were the point of entry to Chicago’s art history? Guided by Indigenous collaborations, priorities, and voices, the exhibition foregrounds the perspectives of Indigenous artists currently based in the city and those from nations forcibly displaced from the area in the nineteenth century. Woven Being emphasizes Indigenous curatorial methodologies that prioritize collaboration, reciprocity, and sustained dialogue with an expanding, intergenerational community of Indigenous knowledge sharers and non-Indigenous allies.
Through the perspectives of four collaborating artists—Andrea Carlson (Grand Portage Ojibwe), Kelly Church (Match-E-Be-Nash-E-Wish Band of Pottawatomi), Nora Moore Lloyd (Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), and Jason Wesaw (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi), Woven Being explores confluences that have shaped and continue to shape Indigenous creative practices in the region, making visible its place as a critical nexus for Indigenous art and art histories. The artists are partnering with The Block team on selections of their work and historical and contemporary works by other artists they see in relation to themselves. Selections highlight themes identified in dialogue with diverse project advisors: kinship between materials, relations across regional landways and waterways, and the weaving together of past, present, and future.
Together the works in the exhibition form constellations of intimate and interwoven stories that resist the monolithic storytelling that too often characterizes museum presentations of Indigenous art. Oral history interviews with the collaborating artists serve as a foundation for interpretative materials and an accompanying publication, centering the artists’ voices and respecting their agency in determining contexts for the display of their work. The exhibition presents approximately 80 works that speak to the interwovenness of Indigenous art, materials, and time, including new work created by the collaborating artists.