The Saint Louis Art Museum presents rarely seen works from local private collections, neighboring institutions and its own holdings in “Woodlands: Native American Art from St. Louis Collections,” the museum’s first exhibition of historic and modern textiles, sculpture and graphic art by Indigenous artists from eastern North America.
The free exhibition will be on view through April 24, 2022.
This exhibition expands the geographic scope of Native North American art displayed in the museum galleries and debuts seven recent gifts of art made in the Woodlands, a vast region encompassing the Great Lakes, Atlantic Coast and southeastern United States.
Visitors to the exhibition will be drawn to graceful carving in wooden weapons and vessels, sculptural weaving of grass and wood splints and delicate embroidery made from porcupine quills and moose hair. To harvest and process these varied materials, artists responded to radical changes in ecologies and landscapes linked to the long history of colonial settlement in the region. Most works in the exhibition date to the 19th century, an era of territorial displacement during which artists developed a robust souvenir industry and transformed earlier modes of self-adornment to incorporate alternative media.
Through the 19th century, artists converted wool cloth, calico, silk ribbons and glass beads into trimmed garments and bags that became emblematic of Indigenous identities. A pair of dolls in the exhibition features cotton and wool clothing and a profusion of glass beads on necklaces and shoulder bags. Created on the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota during a time of profound conflict, the artist miniaturized earlier clothing styles in an act of subtle resistance against external pressure for cultural reform.
The exhibition is curated by Alexander Brier Marr, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Assistant Curator of Native American Art.