Jaune Quick-to-See Smith curating Native American art exhibit at National Gallery

Artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation) is curating The Land Carries Our Ancestors: Contemporary Art by Native Americans, an exhibition highlighting artworks by some 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 planned for two levels of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, the exhibition will include several recent acquisitions for the National Gallery’s permanent collection, including works by G. Peter Jemison (Seneca Nation of Indians, Heron Clan), 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 will underscore 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,” Jaune Quick-to-See Smith said. “‘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.”

About the Exhibition

The Land Carries Our Ancestors will be on view at the National Gallery of Art from September 24, 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 will be accompanied by a range of programs and events, to be announced at a later date. A related book published by the National Gallery in association with Princeton University Press will feature each artist, a poem by Joy Harjo (Muscogee), 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, and an essay based on a conversation between Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and 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,” Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art, said. “The Land Carries Our Ancestors will shine a light on Native stewardship of the natural environment and reveal the inspiring social and cultural practices of this remarkable group of artists, 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 24, 2023–January 15, 2024
New Britain Museum of American Art, April 18–September 15, 2024
The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

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 the complexity of Native American life in contrast to the consumerism of mainstream society. Her work is philosophically centered by her strong traditional beliefs and political activism.

The National Gallery of Art acquired Smith’s painting Target (1992) in 2020 with funds from Emily and Mitchell Rales. The Whitney Museum of American Art will present a retrospective of the artist’s work, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map, in April of 2023.

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