Spaceworks Gallery, a relatively new enterprise, is showing an exhibit of work by local Native American artists representing a diversity of tribal affiliations. Entitled “Protect the Sacred: Artists for Standing Rock,” all of the work is in one way or another addressing the attempt to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from passing through lands deemed sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux. An alliance of Native Americans, environmentalists, veterans and others have been bravely resisting the pipeline company's attempt to ram the oil pipeline through, despite objections by several Sioux tribes among others. Calling themselves “water protectors,” the people that are putting themselves in the way of the project assert that they are protecting the waters of the Missouri River, as such pipelines have a record of leaking oil and contaminating the environment. Such a spill in the river would threaten wildlife and the people that depend upon the Missouri for water. The struggle speaks to Native American rights and the need to find clean sources of energy that do not damage the natural environment.
Last December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that the proposed course of the pipeline would not be permitted. The water protectors, however, are maintaining a state of vigilance since it is uncertain whether or not the incoming Trump administration will seek to reverse the decision on the part of the Corps.
The current show runs through Feb. 16 with a special reception featuring performance art and spoken word on third Thursday of both Jan. and Feb. Proceeds generated by the show will go toward supporting those that continue to resist the DAPL.
“Protect the Sacred” was curated by Asia Tail, a local painter affiliated with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. The work on display is as varied as the tribal affiliations of the artists themselves. Stylistically, the work ranges from punk rock/contemporary to more traditional Native American designs. Among the former are the charmingly intimate drawings of Raven Juarez and the etchings of Geri Montano. Work featuring more traditional Native American motifs include those of the Puyallup Tribe's superstar artist Shaun Peterson and the colorful geometric compositions of Fox Spears.
Tlingit painter Nahaan manages a successful blend of styles in works like “Coastal Wombyns Resistance,” a portrait of a figure whose face is a Salish-style mask and who wears an anti-oil T-shirt and has a fist raised in protest. Likewise, Lisa Telford's skillfully basket-weaved cowboy boots utilize a traditional craft to make a satirical object.
Yatika Starr Fields executed large, lush, impressionist watercolor paintings of the tipi encampment at Standing Rock. The artist painted them on site. Ryan! Feddersen created snow globes that have black flecks instead of white. These show – vividly – the ugliness of oil when it gets into the water. The great photographer Matika Wilbur, who had a solo show at Tacoma Art Museum within recent memory, has contributed several photos, including “Miles Allard, Releasing the Eagle at Standing Rock.” This striking image shows a snowy haired and bearded elder holding a bald eagle that has its beak open and a fire in its eye.
Spaceworks gallery is located at 950 Pacific Ave. (the entrance is on 11th St.). The gallery if open Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. For further information visit www.spaceworkstacoma.com/gallery.