In 1838, the Cherokee People were forcibly and illegally removed from their homelands in the southeast United States and resettled in northeastern Oklahoma. Some remained in the original lands (either by returning or hiding during the round up). Brenda Mallory (Cherokee Nation) and Luzene Hill (Eastern Band Cherokee) are members of these two bands who met during their 2015 Eiteljorg Fellowship. Their work will be featured together in the fourth exhibition in the Portland Art Museum’s Center for Contemporary Native Art.
Luzene Hill’s work included in this exhibition will focus on issues of violence against Native women, female empowerment, and native sovereignty—topics that Hill has addressed in her past work. Through a series of new works, she is merging her interest in the history and materiality of cochineal dye with the epidemic of sexual violence against Native women. Cochineal dye is a natural red dye developed from the carminic acid that is produced by a specific type of adult female insect in order to protect itself from predators. The dye has been used in Central America for coloring fabrics yet was taken from and hoarded by the Spanish from the Mixtecs and others. Her large-scale hanging work of dyed silk and figural forms will also connect with the number 6956, which is the average number of Native women who report being sexually assaulted each year (and it’s important to note that only about 16% of sexual assaults are ever reported).
Created during her Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship in 2015, Brenda Mallory’s installation entitled Recurring Chapters in the Book of Inevitable Outcomes consists of tall shapes resembling charred timbers or skeletal plant stalks surrounded by colorful, lively spore-like forms. The ruin-like floor pieces speak to what was left behind, but the resilience and hope shows in the spore-like forms that scatter across the walls and floor like blowing seeds. Her work is inspired by a rereading of Cherokee history, and addresses ideas of disruption, repair, and renewal.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website