More Than A Link to the Past

Art by Kevin Pourier (Oglala Lakota, 2014 NACF Regional Artist Fellow) is now on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a landmark exhibit that made its way from Paris to New York City via Kansas City.

Kevin Pourier (Lakota), Warrior Shades. Buffalo Horn carved and inlaid with sandstone, pipestone and mother of pearl. 2010

Warrior Shades by 2014 NACF Regional Artist Fellow for Traditional Arts Kevin Pourier (Lakota) is on view until May 10 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Nearly 900 people attended the opening reception of “The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky,” which includes Warrior Shades by the Lakota artist. “It was a big deal to be featured at The Met,” said Pourier, who along with Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) Program Associate Wendy Red Star (Crow) was one of the few living artists chosen to have their work featured in the historic overview of Native arts from the Plains region. To Pourier, the contemporary Native artist presence was limited, but an important inclusion to the historical predominance of the exhibit, “We’re 21st century people and we should be something more than a link to past.”

The traveling exhibit brings together Native art of the Plains from European and North American collections, featuring works from pre-contact to today. It was first shown at the Musee du quai Branly in Paris last summer and made a stop at Kansas City’s Nelson Atkins Art Museum prior to landing in New York, where it stays until May 10.

After attending the reception in New York, Pourier traveled to Phoenix to present his work at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market, where his exquisite buffalo horn-inlaid belt New Direction was selected as Best in Class in the juried show.

New Direction by Kevin Pourier (Lakota) won Best In Class at The Heard this year.

The buffalo horn inlaid belt New Directions 1 by Kevin Pourier (Lakota), created during his NACF Regional Artist Fellowship year, won Best of Class: First Place and Best of Classification for Diverse Art Forms at the 2015 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market.

Pourier also recently concluded a winter residency at the Denver Art Museum. As the Native Artist in Residence he created carved buffalo horn jewelry pieces.

Until recently, the high demand from galleries and collectors made it difficult for Pourier to take the time to step back and reassess his journey as an artist. “I subsist solely from my art. That’s how I support my family and myself,” he said. “The NACF Regional Artist Fellowship was an amazing gift that has allowed me to take a breath and begin focusing on the non-utilitarian aspect of my work.”

Support from the fellowship allowed the artist to take a break from creating what he calls his “bread and butter pieces” to explore other opportunities to present his work. The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies invited him to be among 16 artists to be featured in “Lakota Emergence,” which will show at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City from May 6-9.

Exhibit curators commissioned Pourier to create original works inspired by Lakota creation stories. “I will use new techniques that I was able to explore during the fellowship,” said the artist who will be creating works in the Native-innovated medium of buffalo spoons. “But I’m not going to try and outdo our ancestors who used the power of love and mastered perfection.”

The artist intends to continue creating work that engages communities and sheds light on issues, starting with the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota where he lives with his wife and partner Valerie. He mentioned some of the concerns facing his community, in particular a recent spate of teen suicides. “Art saved my life, and it has the ability to change and heal,” said Pourier. “Art can’t save everyone, but if we can save even a few, it is worth it.”


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