It has been a busy time for me at the Denver Art Museum. This article highlights some of my activities as the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow in American Indian Art.
One of my first major museum experiences in my role as fellow was the opportunity to shadow Jennifer Henneman, the assistant curator of western art, as she installed Backstory: Western American Art in Context at History Colorado Center. I learned about the design and installation processes, became acquainted with the museum teams that help the exhibition installation process flow smoothly, and observed collaboration between institutions. I also learned about wall colors, lighting, and artwork placement (Did you know that there is a blue paint color called Grandma’s Sweater?).
I also shadowed Rebecca Hart, the Vicki and Kent Logan Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and learned how to productively work with artists. I joined her as she met with Logan Lecture artist, Shantell Martin, as she completed her installation at the Denver Convention Center. I also attended Martin’s Logan Lecture where she used her art to inspire the multicultural audience.
Working on Exhibitions
This experience provided important knowledge that I used when a part of the team that curated Stampede: Animals in Art. For Stampede, I interviewed curators from every department to get insight into their collection’s artworks. After the interviews, I drafted and helped revise and finalize the extended labels for the exhibition. I observed the installation process, attended the media preview, and opening night reception for Stampede. I learned that in order to execute a great exhibition, it takes time, dedication, and teamwork. Learn about the Native arts objects on view in Stampede.
One of the most intriguing aspects of my fellowship is my upcoming co-curation of the Eyes On: Julie Buffalohead exhibition with Native arts curator, John Lukavic. Known for her edgy use of animal iconography, Ponca artist Julie Buffalohead is creating 7-8 new works on canvas for this exhibition (opens July 29).
While conducting research for my final written project, I experienced my first Santa Fe Indian Market. This was a wonderful opportunity to observe and write about the oldest Native American art market in the United States. I also travelled to Tulsa, Oklahoma to attend the Native American Arts Studies Association Meetings with curators Nancy Blomberg and John Lukavic. I learned about the current state of Native American art and developments in the field.
At the American Anthropological Association in Washington, D.C, I presented a paper based, in part, on my research of the DAM’s Southern New England collections entitled “Contesting the Narrative of Disappearance of Southern New England Tribes in Museums.” That same week, I presented a poster at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology symposium on the same topic. I received critical feedback in both venues, and will use it to publish an article about Native Southern New England art and artists.
Photo at top: Members of the Stampede team from left to right: John Lukavic, Ann Lambson, Jennifer Pray, Denene De Quintal, and Jesse Laird Ortega.