Dakota Mace art translates Diné history and beliefs

Bruce Silverstein Gallery will present its first solo exhibition of Diné artist Dakota Mace May 6 – June 25, 2022. The exhibition, Diné Bé’ Iiná (The Diné Lifeway), will feature chemigrams, beaded cyanotypes, weavings, and editioned prints that will explore Mace’s chemistry-based and multi-faceted processes that focus on translating the language of Diné (Navajo) history and beliefs. Choosing materials deliberately, Dakota Mace art reinterprets the symbols of creation stories, cosmologies, and social structures.

“The materials I use, both traditional and non-traditional, are connected to the places they reside, the memories they hold, and the complexities they share to our lineage,” Dakota Mace said.  

Mace utilizes design elements from her heritage, most often incorporating the motif of Na’ashjéii Asdzáá, Spider-Woman, who is one of the most important deities to the Diné. Spider-Woman played an integral part in preserving the lives of the Diné by guiding the earliest weavers so they could provide for themselves and teach ways of balance within the mind, body, and soul. 

“It is through materials that a visual language is expressed; through the calm resonance of Hózhó Nahasdlii (living within balance).” 

Mace creates works in four colors, focusing on one color at a time. Her “blue period” includes cyanotypes that feature the symbols Na’ashjé’íí Asdzáá (Spider-Woman), Dził (Mountain), Tsił nó’ołí’ (Whirling Log), and Dii (Four).  Several series in the show include Nihá (for us), which explores Diné traditions and their relationship to memory and land.

“Through the color łichíí (red), I explore the past, present, and future with forms inspired by Kinétah (land),” she explains.

The deep red of the dyed prints references the earliest Diné weavers’ relationship to the resource cochineal, which provided medicine and protective powers, and was often used in woven works. 

Included in the exhibition are Mace’s most recent works, Dahodiyinii (Sacred Places).  Often arranged in diptychs and triptychs, Mace pairs images of different objects, landscapes, or memories selected by the subjects she includes. The textual element of storytelling informs what we are looking at and the histories of these places, materials, and connections to the land and origin stories. 

Also included in the exhibition are works from her series Tó éí iiná which translates to “water is life,” an essential aspect for all Indigenous people.

“It encompasses the importance of nature and recognizing Indigenous people as the original caretakers of the land that they reside on,” Dakota Mace said. “Water is an essential part of understanding the land and preserving the history and memory it carries. Nothing can exist without water and many Indigenous communities today still struggle for access to water. This series focuses on understanding the changes happening to waterways here in the United States and the many Indigenous people who continue to fight for its protection. Current situations such as the Enbridge Energy Line 3 oil pipeline and access to clean water for over thirty tribes in the southwest are just a few examples of the ongoing fight to protect water and land. Water is an essential part of many Indigenous practices, and respect is needed for what it continues to provide for all. Each piece is a dedication to our ancestors, the land we reside on, and the memories that exist within.”

Dakota Mace (Diné), So’. Chemigrams, 5.5x8
Dakota Mace (Diné), So’. Chemigrams, 5.5×8

About the Artist

Dakota Mace (Diné) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work focuses on translating the language of Diné history and beliefs.

Mace received her MA and MFA degrees in Photography and Textile Design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her BFA in Photography from the Institute of American Indian Arts.

As a Diné artist, her work draws from the history of her Diné heritage, exploring the themes of family lineage, community, and identity. In addition, her work pushes the viewer’s understanding of Diné culture through alternative photography techniques, weaving, beadwork, and papermaking. She has also worked with numerous institutions and programs to develop dialogue on the issues of cultural appropriation and the importance of Indigenous design work.

She is currently a grad advisor in painting and drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the photographer for the Helen Louise Allen Textile Center and the Center of Design and Material Culture. Her work as an artist and scholar has been exhibited nationally and internationally at various conferences, collectives, museums, and galleries, including Textile Society of America, Weave a Real Peace, Indigenous Photograph, 400 Year Project, Wright Art Museum, Contemporary Arts Center, Kemper Museum of Art, Boston University and the Wallach Art Gallery.

Wyld Gallery in Austin, TX deals exclusively in contemporary Native American artwork.
Wyld Gallery in Austin, TX deals exclusively in contemporary Native American artwork.

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