In 2017, NACF launched the Mentor Artist Fellowship program awarding the first mentor-apprentice cohort. Throughout the life of this program, 31 Native artists and culture bearers received support to foster emerging artists through mentorship in a new generation of artists.
The success of the Mentor Artist Fellowship program led to a partnership with the Portland Art Museum (PAM) in Portland, Oregon, and NACF’s support of the Mesh exhibition, which opened on November 6, 2021. Mesh features the bold work of four early-career artists who apprenticed with an established artist as part of the Mentor Artist Fellowship program. Their multidisciplinary work addresses current social issues, including the ongoing fight against racial injustice and conflicts over Indigenous land rights. At the same time, through photography, painting, sculpture, and mixed media, they celebrate the ongoing presence of Native American art and culture. Curated by Kathleen Ash-Milby, PAM’s Curator of Native American Art, the exhibition is a vivid example of the power of Native arts to lift contemporary artistic expressions as an act of Indigenous resilience.
Mesh brings greater visibility and recognition to the artists we support. These four artists deepened their artistic practices through our Mentor Artist Fellowship program, and NACF is honored to make this investment in the next generation of Native artists.”
― Laura (Cales) Matalka (Chickasaw Nation), NACF Program Manager
ARTISTS FEATURED IN THE MESH EXHIBIT
Ka’ila Farrell-Smith (Klamath Modoc) is a contemporary visual artist based in Modoc Point, Oregon. Her recent work Land Back draws from the aesthetics of graffiti and petroglyphs, using text and imagery as urgent messengers of warning and resistance. Farrell-Smith apprenticed with Shirod Younker (Coquille & Coos) during his NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship, learning the art of traditional and contemporary tool making, canoe paddle carving and canoe model making.
Photo: “Off The Ground,” Acrylics, Painted Hills wild red, Klamath charcoal, aerosols, graphite, oil bars on wood panel, Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, 2021.
Lehuauakea (Kanaka Maoli) is an interdisciplinary artist and Kapa maker. Lehuauakea apprenticed with Brenda Mallory (Cherokee Nation) during her NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship. For their final project, they curated an online exhibition titled ᎩᎦᎨ x PŌ, the Cherokee word for “red” and the ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi word for “black.” Mallory and Lehuauakea explored interwoven histories of displacement, mixed identity and cultural erasure through a contemporary Native lens.
Photo: “Mana Māhū,” Kapa, Lehuauakea (Kanaka Maoli), 2020.
Leah Rose Kolakowski (Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa) is a photographer who apprenticed with NACF Mentor Artist Fellow Cara Romero (Chemehuevi). They worked together to create six new Native American female fine-art photographic portraits during their fellowship year. Kolakowski’s photographic study channels strength and beauty to express an authentic Native perspective in contemporary photography.
Photo: “Bring Her Home,” Leah Kolakowski (Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa), 2018.
Lynnette Haozous (Chiricahua Apache [San Carlos Apache Tribe], Diné, Taos Pueblo) painted a temporary 20-foot mural in the gallery for the exhibition. Haozous apprenticed with Nani Chacon (Diné) during her NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship, whose murals often address Indigenous thought, aesthetics, and identity, offering visibility to and empowering Indigenous people. For their fellowship year, Chacon and Haozous painted four mural projects.
Photo: Lynnette Haozous painting a 20-foot temporary mural at the Portland Art Museum, 2021.