Five Native American or First Nations artists have been selected for the prestigious 2023 Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. Trailblazing mixed media, sculpture, beadwork and photography by the artists will be on exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art beginning in November 2023. The Eiteljorg fellows will each receive a $50,000 unrestricted grant, and the museum expects to purchase more than $100,000 of their artworks to add to its collection of contemporary Native American art, considered one of the best such collections in the world.
Every other year since 1999, the Eiteljorg Fellowship has helped bring Native contemporary art to the forefront, casting a spotlight on the works of leading Native artists from across the U.S. and Canada. The five artists for 2023 – the 12th round of the Fellowship overall – were selected recently by a panel of three art experts who reviewed their works. These are the Eiteljorg Fellows:
- Invited artist Ruth Cuthand (Plains Cree) of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has worked in printmaking, painting, drawing and photography and beadwork, confronting the historic mistreatment of First Nations peoples in Canada. Her recent works focus on the pandemic and include intricate beadwork depictions of viruses (as they would be seen under a microscope) sewn onto face masks.
- Natalie Ball (Klamath Tribes [Klamath / Modoc]) of Chiloquin, Oregon, draws upon her Native and African American heritage to create assemblages using quilt patterns, unconventional objects and natural materials to investigate definitions of Native identity.
- Sean Chandler (Aaniiih [Gros Venture]) of Harlem, Montana, creates abstract drawings on unstretched canvas, conveying experiences of growing up in eastern Montana and U.S. settler colonialism. His methodologies as an artist coincide with his academic career as a community college educator and administrator; he currently serves as president of Aaniiih Nakoda College Nakoda College on the Fort Belknap Agency in Montana.
- Mercedes Dorame (Gabrielino Tongva) of Burbank, California, creates photographs documenting the installations she has created using natural materials with the land. Her ancestral home is present-day Los Angeles, and her work explores the roles of culture and ceremony, past and present.
- Raven Halfmoon (Caddo Nation / Choctaw / Delaware) of Norman, Oklahoma, continues her tribe’s rich history with ceramics by creating large-scale stoneware sculptures that focus on Caddo culture, social issues and living as a Native woman in the 21st century.
“The 2023 class of Eiteljorg Fellows are an exceptional group of artists who make an impact in a variety of artistic disciplines, and museum visitors will be impressed with the originality, imagination and innovation in their works when the exhibition opens late next year,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “The Eiteljorg made a commitment to presenting the biennial Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, and each round provides an important opportunity to raise public awareness of the contemporary Native art field and develop support for the artists.”
The field of contemporary Native art has grown and evolved in the 23 years since the Eiteljorg first developed the Fellowship program. In light of the increased interest by art institutions in the cutting-edge work of contemporary Native artists, the Eiteljorg Fellowship has increased the amount of the grant each artist is awarded; it will be $50,000 instead of $25,000.
“The Eiteljorg is thrilled to have this opportunity to continue to build the museum’s incredible collection of Native American art,” Eiteljorg Vice President and Chief Curatorial Officer Elisa Phelps said. “The Fellowship remains unparalleled in its holistic approach, with exhibition, publication, acquisitions, artist grants and opportunities for the public and staff to engage with the artists all part of the program. We are honored to welcome these five accomplished artists to Indianapolis as Fellows.”
Building on the momentum of previous rounds of the Fellowship, an exhibition of the 2023 Eiteljorg Fellows’ work titled UNSETTLE/Converge is scheduled to open Nov. 11, 2023 and will continue through the end of February 2024 at the Eiteljorg. During the opening weekend, plans call for the artists to lead a public guided tour of the exhibition in the gallery, and there will be other programs where museum visitors can participate and learn more. The museum will publish an art catalogue featuring essays about each of the 2023 artists.
“We are beyond happy to award our 2023 Fellows a $50,000 unrestricted cash award as this will enable them to fulfill dreams and meet artistic goals. To be an Eiteljorg Fellow is a really big deal in the Native / Indigenous circles in the U.S. and Canada, and we at the Eiteljorg are honored to celebrate and support these Fellows and the larger contemporary Native art field,” Dorene Red Cloud (Oglala Lakota), Eiteljorg curator of Native American art, said. “The title UNSETTLE/Converge maintains the thought process of the last two Fellowship titles: The lines between contemporary Native art are blurred, have shifted boundaries and are now embarking on de-colonializing definitions to present Native voices and visions foremost.”
Over the years, the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship has received past generous support from Lilly Endowment Inc. and the Efroymson Family Fund (a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation) and David Jacobs, among others. Since 1999, the Eiteljorg Fellowship has added more than 200 works by 55 contemporary Native artists to the museum’s permanent collection. In conjunction with these efforts, the Eiteljorg Museum co-produced a 2017 documentary film with WFYI about contemporary Native artists, titled Native Art Now!, that aired on PBS TV affiliates around the nation, and the museum also published a scholarly art catalogue of the same title in 2017.
A comprehensive overview of all the previous Fellowships can be found at contemporaryartfellowship.eiteljorg.org.
About the Eiteljorg
A cultural pillar for 33 years in downtown Indianapolis’ scenic White River State Park, the Eiteljorg Museum seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the arts, histories and cultures of the Native peoples of North America and of the American West by telling amazing stories.
Located on the Central Canal at 500 West Washington St., the Eiteljorg is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.