Tongva artists at Catalina Museum for Art & History

Catalina Museum for Art & History presents Crossing Waters: Contemporary Tongva Artists Carrying Pimugna, an exhibition featuring a collection of works created by three contemporary Tongva artists: Weshoyot Alvitre, Mercedes Dorame, and River Garza. Opening on September 10, Crossing Waters marks the inaugural partnership between the museum and the Tongva Community, recognizing the Tongva people as the first islanders of Santa Catalina.

Pimugna, often shortened to Pimu, is the Tongva name for the island now commonly known as Catalina Island. It was once an integral part of greater Tonvaangar—the Tongva world. Through their individual practices, the three presenting Tongva artists explore their relationship with the island, crossing waters to connect past, present, and future. As descendants of the Tongva community, Alvitre, Dorame and Garza will debut a variety of never before seen contemporary art pieces for the new exhibition.

In celebration of the new exhibition, the museum will host an official opening party on Saturday, October 22.

“This marks the first Catalina Museum show devoted to Tongva tribal and community voices,” Johnny Sampson, Deputy Director and Chief Curator for the museum, said. “We are excited to bring these incredible artists together to provide a platform for conversation, using contemporary art as the vessel, crossing time and bridging cultures, to discuss Pimugna’s place in the Original people’s history and future.” 

Weshoyot Alvitre is a Tongva (Los Angeles Basin) and Scottish comic book artist and illustrator. She was born in the Santa Monica Mountains on the property of Satwiwa, a cultural center started by her father, Art Alvitre. She grew up close to the land and was raised with traditional knowledge that inspires the work she does today. Alvitre has been working in the comics medium for over 15 years and has since contributed to numerous Eisner award-winning books, including the “Umbrella Academy” (Darkhorse Comics), “Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream” (Locust Moon Press) and “Little Bird” (Image Comics).

She has earned accolades for her work that visualize historical material, including “Graphic Classics: Native American Classics” (Eureka Productions), The Cattle Thief 2018 AILA Best Middle School Book “Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers” (Native Realities Press), 2018 Pew Arts & Heritage Grant funded “Ghostriver: The Fall and Rise of the Conestoga” (Library Company of Philadelphia/Native Realities Press) and 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award – Picture Book Honor “At The Mountain’s Base” (Kokila).

Mercedes Dorame, born in Los Angeles, received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and her undergraduate degree from UCLA. She calls on her Tongva ancestry to engage the problematics of (in)visibility and ideas of cultural construction.

Dorame’s work is in the permanent collections of the Hammer Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Triton Museum, The Allen Memorial Art Museum, The de Saisset Museum, The Montblanc Foundation Collection, and The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum. She is currently visiting faculty at CalArts, and was recently honored by UCLA as part of the centennial initiative “UCLA: Our Stories Our Impact”, and was part of the Hammer Museum’s 2018 Made in LA exhibition. Dorame has shown her work internationally. 

River Garza is an artist from Los Angeles whose work draws on traditional Indigenous aesthetics, Southern California Indigenous maritime culture, skateboarding, Graffiti, Mexican culture, and Low Rider culture. Garza’s practice is inseparable from his Tongva heritage. He is an amalgamation of centuries of resistance, forced assimilation, and resettlement and his work reflects those disjointments of memory, tradition, and identity. His practice focuses on how differential treatment under settler governments construct Indigenous identities, employing physical layers of cultural artifacts in his work, such as oil, spray paint, pen, and Western magazine cutouts which integrate Tongva ancestral iconography and contemporary experiences.

Garza’s work acts as a critique of settler capitalism while exploring how the literal and metaphoric layers of colonialism add weight to contemporary Indigenous identity that is both painful and a source of creativity.

Crossing Waters was created in partnership with members of tribal entities listed on the Native American Heritage Commission list, the LA City/County Indian Commission, the NAGPRA committee at UCLA, and other indigenous community and tribal members to form a Tongva Advisory Council.  

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Mondays. For more information about the Catalina Museum for Art & History, visit To stay connected, follow the museum’s social media platforms @CatalinaMuseum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About Catalina Museum for Art & History

The Catalina Museum for Art & History offers the best in art and history exhibitions, music and dance performances, lectures by guest speakers from all over the world, and the finest in silent, documentary and international film.

The museum is located in the heart of Avalon at 217 Metropole Avenue. For more information, the museum may be reached by phone at 310-510-2414 or at its website:

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