Celebrate the Artwork of the Columbia River Plateau Region
In the museum world, artwork is usually carefully managed, kept clean and locked away in a vault when not on display for the public. Yet a new exhibition at the High Desert Museum in Bend turns that on its head.
In Creations of Spirit, opening January 28 at the Museum, Indigenous artwork will show the imprints of use—from baskets with dirt or huckleberry stains on them to a tule reed canoe that’s graced an Oregon waterway. And after the exhibition, these cultural items will continue to be made available to Native communities.
“The works offered by these deeply gifted and knowledgeable artists will be used in their communities to teach and share traditions,” said Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D.
Creations of Spirit brings visitors into the cultural knowledge systems of the Indigenous Plateau—a region encompassing the Columbia River and its tributaries. Six accomplished Native artists were commissioned to create works and use them in the field before the exhibition, conveying how art is at once utilitarian and ceremonial, as well as part of the continuation of Native traditions.
Dynamic videos, photographs and quotes convey the stories of this artwork through the voices of the artists themselves.
Joe Feddersen (Colville) made a root bag that was used this past spring to gather roots. The contemporary sculptor, basket weaver, painter, photographer and mixed-media artist will be featured in the 2023 Renwick Gallery Invitational Renwick Gallery Invitational at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
H’Klumaiyat Roberta Kirk (Wasco, Warm Springs, Diné) created regalia for young women to wear during traditional ceremonies. Kirk has spent her life sewing and beading since her family lost priceless family heirlooms in a house fire as a young girl. She passes down the intricate art of Plateau beadwork through classes and mentoring. Kirk was a recipient of the 2020 Governor’s Arts Award.
Other artists include Natalie Kirk (Warm Springs, Wasco, Seminole, Creek, Creole), who wove two baskets, and Kelli Palmer (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs), who made a putlapa (basket hat) to be used for educational purposes. Jefferson Greene (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs) constructed a tule reed canoe and paddles to be used by Native youth, and Phillip Cash Cash (Nez Perce, Cayuse) created a flute.
In addition, an interactive installation by RYAN! Feddersen (Confederated Tribes of Colville Reservation) will offer a chance to create your own design on a large Plateau basket.
Alongside these works, nine cultural items will be on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Indian in Washington, D.C.
Ultimately, Creations of Spirit is a celebration of the Plateau people who have always been here and are still here, creating and caring for this place for future generations.
Creations of Spirit will be open through October 1, 2023.