There are a couple of exhibits I’ve learned about recently. Both are First Nations beadwork, one in Brampton, Ontario, and the other in Los Angeles, California.
First, a digression: I’m never quite sure what terminology I should use. The Ontario exhibit uses “First Nations,” and the Los Angeles one uses “Native Americans.” I am in no way an expert, but in my exposure here in Minnesota, exhibits in non-Native museums use “Native Americans,” and Native Americans seem to identify themselves by tribe or call themselves “Indian” when speaking. My local Native American Gallery is All My Relations, and their mission is to honor and strengthen relationships “between contemporary American Indian artists and the living influence of preceding generations, between artists and audiences of all ethnic backgrounds, and between art and the vitality of the American Indian Cultural Corridor.” I am as respectful to everyone of any culture as I know how to be, while fully acknowledging that I know only a little, and I may unintentionally not be. For example, I recently learned that a gentle handshake in Native culture can be a sign of respect. Reminder to self: follow the other person’s lead when unsure – and even when you think you know what you are doing…
Back to beadwork! The Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives in Brampton, Ontario (just west of Toronto) is exhibiting “Spirit Seeds: A Celebration of First Nations Beadwork” until October 13th. From the images, it looks like there are some lovely examples of Niagara Falls area beadwork. Also, there’s a beaded cuff class on October 4th.
In Los Angeles, the Autry National Center is showing “Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork.” On exhibit until April 26th, it is “a groundbreaking exhibition of more than 250 unique objects and personal stories. The exhibition is the first of its kind to explore how beaded floral designs became a remarkable art form as well as a means of economic and cultural survival for the Native North American people.” The exhibition catalog is by Lois Sherr Durbin. The Autry will also be hosting beading workshops.
Please visit if you are in either area, if you want to see some beautiful beadwork! If you can’t, read this article about the evolution of beadwork through the generations in the Prince Albert Daily Herald, and this article about a rare Cree coat at the Autry in the Los Angeles Times.
Edit (7/25/14): The current issue of Magazine Antiques (July/August 2014) has an article “A Fruitful Exchange” about the Autry exhibit. Six full pages, including a picture of a pair of quilled boots by Jamie Okuma. The article isn’t currently available on the website, but may be later.