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March 06, 2023 (September 13, 2023)

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith Curates Exhibition of Contemporary Art by Native Americans at the National Gallery of Art

Steven Yazzie (Dine/Pueblo of Laguna, New Mexico/European descent)
Orchestrating a Blooming Desert, 2003
oil on canvas
overall: 121.9 x 152.4 cm (48 x 60 in.)
framed: 127.2 x 157.5 x 4.4 cm (50 1/16 x 62 x 1 3/4 in.)
Collection of Christy Vezolles
© 2003 Steven J. Yazzie. All rights reserved. Image: Courtesy of the Heard Museum, Photo by Craig Smith

Washington, DC–Artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation) has curated The Land Carries Our Ancestors: Contemporary Art by Native Americans, an exhibition highlighting artworks by nearly 50 living Native artists that powerfully visualizes Indigenous knowledge of land/landbase/landscape. Brought together by Smith, works by this intergenerational group of artists from across the nation span a range of practices, including weaving, beadwork, sculpture, painting, printmaking, drawing, photography, performance, and video. Their interpretive expressions reflect the diversity of Native intellectual acuity according to individual, regional, and cultural identities. At the same time, these works share a worldview informed by thousands of years in reverence, study, and concern for the land.

In a dynamic presentation installed in the upper level of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, the exhibition includes several recent acquisitions for the National Gallery’s permanent collection, including works by G. Peter Jemison (Seneca Nation of Indians, Heron Clan), Linda Lomahaftewa (Hopi/Choctaw), Marie Watt (Seneca Nation of Indians/European descent), and Emmi Whitehorse (Diné). As the first artist to curate an exhibition at the National Gallery, Smith underscores the self-determination, survivance, and right to self-representation of Indigenous peoples in her selection of artworks.  

“I am honored to share these powerful works that demonstrate the vital, ongoing contributions of Native artists,” said Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. “‘Breaking the Buckskin Ceiling’ is not a smooth transition, but the National Gallery of Art is engaged with making change in their system of collecting art as well as demonstrating their ability to be more inclusive in their exhibitions. The Land Carries Our Ancestors is an example of more parity in their exhibition schedule, and we are very pleased to be a party of this change.” 

The Land Carries Our Ancestors will be on view at the National Gallery of Art from September 22, 2023, through January 15, 2024, and at the New Britain Museum of American Art from April 18 through September 15, 2024. It is the first exhibition of Native art presented at the National Gallery in 30 years and the first exhibition of contemporary Native art in 70 years.

The exhibition is accompanied by a range of programs and events. A related book published by the National Gallery in association with Princeton University Press features each artist; a poem by Joy Harjo (Muscogee [Creek] Nation), 23rd US poet laureate; an essay by heather ahtone (Choctaw/Chickasaw Nation), director of curatorial affairs at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma;  an essay by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith; and an essay on the art in the exhibition by Shana Bushyhead Condill (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), executive director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina.

“The National Gallery of Art is grateful to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith for organizing and sharing this groundbreaking exhibition that gives voice to Native culture across the US. It honors the visual sovereignty and Indigenous beliefs that are linked to the land and connect past and present traditions with a hope for the future. The Land Carries Our Ancestors centers on Native stewardship of the natural environment and reveals the inspiring social and cultural practices of this remarkable group of artists,” said Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art. “As we continue to build our collection to represent the nation, we are pleased to announce that several works in the exhibition were acquired for the permanent collection.” 

Exhibition Dates and Organization

National Gallery of Art, September 22, 2023–January 15, 2024 
New Britain Museum of American Art, April 19–September 15, 2024

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art. 

Exhibition Support

The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation has provided major support for the exhibition. 

Additional funding is provided by the Director’s Circle and the Tower Project of the National Gallery of Art.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (b. 1940)

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith is a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation of Montana. She grew up on several other reservations in the Pacific Northwest and always returned to her relations on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation in Montana. She holds a BA in art education from Framingham State College (now Framingham State University) in Massachusetts and an MA in visual arts from the University of New Mexico. In addition, Smith has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art, and the University of New Mexico for her work and outreach to a wide spectrum of audiences. Smith’s roles as artist, teacher, curator, and activist have resulted in hundreds of exhibitions over the course of 50 years, featuring both her work and that of other artists across the United States and in Europe.

Smith calls herself a cultural arts worker. She uses humor and irony to examine myths, stereotypes, and consumerism. The National Gallery of Art acquired Smith’s painting Target (1992) in 2020 with funds from Emily and Mitchell Rales, and Adios Map (2021) in 2022 with funds from Glenstone Foundation. A retrospective of the Smith’s work, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map, organized by The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, is traveling nationwide.

Related Programs

Open House
September 24, 12:00–4:00 p.m.
East Building Upper Level
Join us for a day of talks, music, and dance. Exhibition artists Marwin Begaye (Diné), Brenda Mallory (Cherokee Nation), and Melissa Cody (Navajo) will discuss their artwork. Then, enjoy performances from the Warpaint Singers, an honored drum group from the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, and a weaving performance by artist Eric-Paul Riege (Diné).

First Saturday
October 7, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
East Building
Preceding Indigenous People’s Day, experience performances by the Piscataway Nation Singers and Dancers, a screening of Lakota Nation vs. United States, drop-in artmaking, and more.

November 4, 10:00–3:30 p.m.
East Building
Commemorate Native American Heritage month with performances by Lakota John, drop-in artmaking, and exhibition tours.

National Gallery Nights: Indigenous Futures
November 9, 6:00–9:00 p.m.
East Building
Lottery for registration opens October 30 and closes November 2 at 12:00 p.m.
Explore how Native peoples are shaping the future in art and culture.  Enjoy electro-soul music by Ya Tseen (Nicholas Galanin, Lingít/Unangax̂), join pop-up talks, and make your own art inspired by the land.

Imagining Indigenous Cinema: New Voices, New Visions
November 11–December 3
East Building Auditorium
Watch films by today’s generation of innovative Indigenous filmmakers.

September 22, 2:00 p.m.
East Building Auditorium
Exhibition curator and artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation), artists G. Peter Jemison (Seneca National of Indians, Heron Clan) and Neal Ambrose-Smith (Flathead Salish Nation of Montana descent), and scholar Elizabeth Rule discuss the exhibition's central theme of Indigenous reverence, study, and concern for the land.

Virtual Symposium: The Land Carries Our Ancestors
November 1–3
In this virtual symposium, artists, museum and university professionals, and others will discuss themes of reverence, study, and concern for the land. Speakers will include scholar Robin Wall  (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) and artists Keith Braveheart (Lakota), Melissa Melero-Moose (Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe), and Gerald Clarke Jr. (Cahuilla Band of Indians).

Talk and Film Screening: Wandering Translations, Poems, and Video
Sunday, December 3, 2:00 p.m.
East Building Auditorium
Artist, filmmaker, and poet Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) talks about his current and future projects and his forms of collaboration. A screening of his short films follows.

Contact Information

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