Morris Graves Museum Features Sixty Local Native Artists
By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune
Over 60 local artists from the Wiyot, Yurok, Hoopa, Tsnungwe, Karuk, and Tolowa tribes will be featured in the show River as Home at Morris Graves Museum of Art in Eureka starting Saturday, Feb. 2, and running through Saturday, March 23.
Chag Lowry, program manager of the Native Cultures Fund, said this is the first time that the entire museum has featured art from local native artists.
“In 2000 we had it in one room,” Lowry said, “but it was always my goal to have the entire museum honoring all native artists.”
For at least 20 of the artists, including many who’ve taken art classes in Hoopa with College of the Redwoods (CR) instructor Willa Briggs, this will be the first time that their work has been shown in a museum.
Lowry said, “We have six primary artists who are part of the cultural renaissance from the late 1960s and early 1970s, and they helped recommend all of the other artists, so it’s a good mix of traditional and contemporary art.”
The exhibit will feature everything from basket weaving, sculpture, and carvings, to paintings, multimedia, and even a traditional 18-foot redwood dugout canoe by George Blake.
Brittany Britton, a recent Humboldt State University museum studies graduate, is on the staff at the museum and has some of her own work exhibited in the show.
Though she usually works with ceramics, Britton’s piece for the exhibit features a cocoon form made out of willow sticks, suspended over bottles of water from the Trinity River near her home.
“It’s in a room with more traditional baskets, and with contemporary paintings,” Britton said. “So, it serves as a bridge between the more traditional and the more contemporary.”
Lyn Risling, one of River as Home’s primary artists, said that she’s done traditional work with regalia, but that’s just for ceremonies. Her public art work is done with acrylic paint.
For the show, Risling has several large pieces that she did with students in the American Indian Academy at McKinleyville High School.
“We did four six-foot by six-foot panels,” Risling said. “We had one which was a traditional Karuk story about how Coyote brought Salmon to the people.
Another panel shows traditional fishing practices in the area, and a third represents the impacts of the Klamath River Basin dams on native communities.
River as Home will officially open with free admission to Morris Graves Museum of Art at 636 F Street in Eureka during Arts Alive on Saturday, Feb. 2, and there will also be music performed by local musicians.
Lowry said, “Our featured musician during the grand opening will be Merv George Sr.”
On Monday afternoon, the show was still being set up inside the museum, but Lowry said that it already looked amazing.
“The reaction of people who come in is pretty special to see,” Lowry said.
Risling said, “This is going to be awesome. I think it will blow people’s minds.”