Native Feminisms

curated by Elizabeth S. Hawley

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Native Feminisms showcases the aesthetic richness and political power of artworks produced by contemporary Native North American artists whose practices address intersectional issues of feminisms and indigeneity.

Over thirty years ago, Laguna Pueblo scholar Paula Gunn Allen asserted the "red roots of white feminism," arguing that "If American society judiciously modeled the traditions of the various Native Nations, the place of women in society would become central... the elderly would be respected, honored, and protected as a primary cultural resource... [and] the destruction of the biota, the life sphere, and the natural resources of the planet would be curtailed." In other words, if settler American societies adopted the worldviews and gynarchical practices that characterized Indigenous communities prior to European invasion, contemporary sociopolitical problems would be alleviated.

Today, issues regarding women's rights, elders' protection, and environmental concerns are critical for many North Americans, particularly in the contexts of the #MeToo Movement, the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued fossil fuel extraction. The artists in this exhibition grapple with the specific ways Native communities experience these and other concerns, addressing decolonization efforts, feminine aesthetic traditions, Indigenous ecocriticism, customs of gender fluidity, violence against Native women and Two-Spirit peoples, and Indigenous futurisms.

The breadth of these topics and their historical and contemporary relevance suggest the discursive potential of Native feminisms, taken up by the participating artists in ways that visually vary but uniformly insist on Native survivance.

Native Feminisms is an apexart New York City Open Call Exhibition.
Elizabeth S. Hawley is the Visiting Assistant Professor in Art History/Visual Studies at Northeastern University. She is a specialist in art of the United States and modern and contemporary art, with a focus in twentieth- and twenty-first-century American Indian art. Other research interests include feminist/women's art, activist art, and art of the American West. Hawley balances teaching and research with an active curatorial practice, recently curating African American Artists of the Great Migration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where, as a Barra Fellow, she also contributed to Modern Times: American Art 1910 — 1950. Previously, she guest-curated a section of MoMA's Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive.