TULSA -- Beginning in October, the Philbrook Museum of Art will present "Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists," the first major traveling exhibition devoted to Native women artists from throughout the United States and Canada, ranging across time and media. The exhibition will be on view in the Helmerich Gallery Oct. 7 through Jan. 3.
Organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and developed in close cooperation with leading Native artists and scholars, the exhibition offers perspectives to enhance understanding of Native art practices and the role of women in Native communities.
"From the earliest discussions of this project several years ago, the co-curators knew it was important for the show to come to Oklahoma," said Philbrook Curator Christina E. Burke. "From Indigenous communities who have always been here to those forcibly removed from their traditional territories to individuals here for school or careers or family reasons, Oklahoma is home to many Native people."
As the primary makers of ceramics, basketry, textiles, bead and quillwork in their communities, women have long been the creative force behind Native art. However, their significant cultural influences have often overlooked. "Hearts of Our People" not only helps visitors understand the contributions of Native women artists not only to the domestic but also to the cultural, diplomatic, economic and religious spheres of their own and other communities, but also goes beyond the longstanding convention of seeing these artworks as unattributed representations of entire cultures. The thematic organization of the exhibition highlights the intentionality of the artists, regardless of culture or media, focusing on the power of women's creations across time.
The exhibition features more than 100 objects from c. 1000 BCE to the present day, including textiles, baskets, beadwork, and pottery, as well as painting, photography, sculpture, poetry, video and installation art. The works are drawn from public and private collections across North America including the Smithsonian Institution, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Philbrook among many others.
In addition, works in the show shine a light on such contemporary issues as reservation boundaries, as in the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision of the McGirt case, the ongoing impact of resource extraction from Native lands, and the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, known as MMIW.
"Native American art has long been a cornerstone of the collection at Philbrook, with over 5,000 objects from more than 200 culture groups. But 'Hearts of Our People' has cast our collection in a new light: we now recognize that about 75% of our Native collection was made by women, many anonymous and many long overlooked. This exhibition shines a bright light on the powerful role women in Native cultures play - and have always played - in shaping their cultures and their communities," said Rachel Keith, deputy director for Curatorial Affairs. "We are thrilled to welcome visitors back to our galleries with such an important and timely exhibition."
The museum is at 2727 S. Rockford Road. Visit Philbrook.org for more information.