Not Fragile: Glass Forged by Tradition

2018 NACF National Artist Fellow RYAN! Feddersen [Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Okanogan/Arrow Lakes)] is a mixed-media installation artist specializing in interactive and immersive artworks that invite audience engagement. Feddersen creates large-scale interactive installations, and also supports the Indigenous arts movement through her curation work. She recently curated an exhibition at the Portland Art Museum (PAM) in the Center for Contemporary Native Arts (CCNA) featuring artists from across the Pacific Northwest.

The exhibition titled Not Fragile showcases Native craft through the transformative power of glass. Traditional Native forms are blended with innovation in designs that are both delicate and resilient. The richness of the exhibition lies in the reflective beauty of glass. Among the seven Native artists whose work is on display is 2011 NACF Artist Fellow Marie Watt (Seneca), whose piece In(compatibility): Czech Bead Color Study Part II depicts a tradition of Indigenous beadwork in contrast to a tradition of Czech bead production. “The two types of glass weren’t necessarily compatible, but this story of compatibility/incompatibility compelled me,” noted Watt on the piece’s display description.

Besides being visually engaging, the exhibition crafts bold social statements about Native identity. The work of Brittany Britton (Hupa) celebrates the adaptability of Native peoples. Britton’s piece What she Carried/what I brought depicts traditional beadwork in a contemporary design, transforming an everyday item that is rarely seen as ceremonial. Britton’s piece was inspired by her great-grandmother’s favorite lawn chair.

Feddersen’s finely curated exhibition demonstrates the survival of culture and tradition. The works featured in Not Fragile challenge colonial ideologies, while intentionally bridging the past and the present. The PAM Center for Contemporary Native Art’s mission parallels the institution’s larger Native American galleries to give visitors a greater understanding of contemporary Native culture. As part of their programming, CCNA hosted a panel discussion in April to accompany Not Fragile. The panel was moderated by RYAN! Feddersen, and featured artists Lillian Pitt (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs), Corky Clairmont (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation), and 2017 NACF Mentor Artist Fellow Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangax̂). Each artist presented their work and engaged in a discussion about working with glass, themes of their work, and the perpetuation of traditional artistic and cultural practices.

NACF is proud to support Not Fragile, which stays on exhibit at PAM until June 9, 2019.

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