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Blood Memoirs

Tucked into 3,600 square feet of Humanities, the Tweed collection lies in wait. Each piece is part of a larger story, but individually the art is like random tidbits of conversation overheard on a city bus.

When a storyteller comes along, the collection’s randomness morphs into a conversation. From 1,350 miles away in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Amber-Dawn Bear Robe is telling the spirited story of identity in North America using the Tweed collection. “What makes Blood Memoirs particularly important is that it illustrates the unique perspective of a curator,” explains Ken Bloom, director of the Tweed Museum of Art.

Blood Memoir's focus is portraits; never posed, not always flattering, but all of them are authentic representations of the artists who created them. As a whole, Blood Memoirs is also a portrait of its curator, Bear Robe. She states, “It’s a reflection of myself.”   

A graduate of Alberta College of Art and Design, Bear Robe was inspired to focus on contemporary North American art by an exhibit she experienced when she was 19 years old. All of the artists in Blood Memoirs are contemporary, including some big names like Andy Warhol and Annie Leibovitz. She says, “I’m excited about the collective and the story that it tells all together.”

Blood Memoirs includes several non-Native artists. “This exhibit puts Native and non-Native artists in the same field,” explains Susan Hudec, director of education at the Tweed. And that’s purposeful, “I’m looking at the exhibit through my lens, a First Nations person, but wanted to tell a full story,” says Bear Robe.

Bear Robe used very modern methods to compile the chapters. “Amber-Dawn mined the collection and brings a new voice to the Tweed,” explains Hudec. Mostly online from New Mexico, she explored the Tweed collection and allowed it to have its own flow, “I went with the stream, balanced it out as my story, and brought in a few artists who weren’t part of the collection. They flesh out and complete the story.”

By no means a stodgy story, videos and a performance at the opening reception are part of the exhibit, as well as a presentation by director and producer Chris Eyre of his film, “Skins.” Each piece is a parcel of Bear Robe’s perspective.

While it’s her perspective, Bear Robe doesn’t want the story to end with her. “I hope that people go in and see a reflection of themselves in the portraits".

Amber-Dawn Bear Robe
  Amber-Dawn Bear Robe guest curated Blood Memoirs. She is the director and curator of the Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts in Santa Fe, N.M.

Chas Banks  

Jamison Chas Banks, UNsurgent #2, 2013

Jamison Charles (Chas) Banks, born in 1978 in Arkansas City, Kansas, is an enrolled member of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe and the Cherokee Tribe of Oklahoma. His mother's graphic art and his grandfather's paintings inspired him to create and gave him a strong foundation for understanding the practice of art.

Frank Big Bear  

Frank Big Bear, Floral Man - Self-Portrait, 1986

Big Bear is known for his bright color pencil works, pieces that tell stories of both the recent history and present day experience of Native Americans.

Naomi Bebo  

Naomi Bebo, Beaded Mask, 2010, Photograph by David Young-Wolff

"It's been a journey for me to reclaim an object that I initially perceived to be cold and repugnant and to take part in its metamorphosis; to watch it emerge with a life of its own into a thing of beauty," Bebo explains in her artist statement.

Chris Eyre  

Chris Eyre, director of Skins

Eyre is a nationally recognized film and television director and producer who has received many awards, including both a Peabody and an Emmy.

Skins is about two brothers living on the Pine Ridge Reservation and the struggles they face individually and as part of the community. Eyre says, “Mogi, one of the characters, can’t let go of the past. As native people, we have a blood memory. Always talking about your past and your history, it’s a native phenomenon.”

Read more about the screening here.

Sue Johnson  

Sue Johnson, Self Portrait of the Artist as Artist Naturalist, Loplop's Sister (after Max Ernst), 2001

Johnson is a painter and printmaker who is greatly inspired by natural history. She explores the role of artist-naturalists and the history of collections, often working collaboratively with museums to develop exhibition projects.

Annie Leibovitz  

Annie Leibovitz, Louise Bourgeois, New York City, 1997

Annie Leibovitz is famous for her portraits of celebrities, many of which have become signature images. She has been a contributing photographer for Vanity Fair magazine since 1983.

Clara Gardner Mairs  

Clara Gardner Mairs, Portrait of Patsy Reed High

Mairs' work is known for its emotional impact, going beyond a likeness and suggesting a narrative.

Norval Morrisseau  

Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Portrait of the Artist's Daughter) late 1960s

When he was 27, Morrisseau had a vision telling him that he should paint. Today, he's considered the founder of the Woodland Art Movement, the "Picasso of the North," and the most innovative artist of the century.

Adrian Stimson  

Adrian Stimson, Buffalo Boy, 2004

Stimson's work explores identity and the re-signification of post-colonial history. His Buffalo Boy, a trickster character, is a parody of Buffalo Bill.





Lori C. Melton, October, 2013


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