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Sandra Hale Schulman
Special to ICT

The latest: The Metropolitan Museum of Art debuts its first exhibition by a Native curator,  the Oscars get new Indigenous voters, giant Landback billboard art draws attention on Long Island, and a new film explores the history of injustice at Manzanar.

ART: What water means to Indigenous people

Water is life — a phrase that has taken on a more powerful meaning in the wake of pipeline protests, droughts and pollution. Artists bring the element to another level by drawing from past and present in a new exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

A new "Water Memories exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City includes a hand-embroidered denim jacket featuring a thunderbird, which represents rain. The jacket, owned and stitched by Rick St. Germaine and his mother, is on loan for the exhibit. The exhibit continues through April 2, 2023. (Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

“Water Memories” — the first exhibit curated by Patricia Marroquin Norby, Purépecha, the new Indigenous associate curator of Native American art in The Metropolitan’s American Wing — looks at what water means to Indigenous people through a mix of 40 historical, modern, and contemporary artworks.

The show is set up in four sections — Ancestral Connections, Water and Sky, Forests and Streams, and Oceanic Imaginations — with works ranging from figurative to abstract. The show features artists Tom Jones, Courtney M. Leonard and Truman Lowe, videographer/sculptor Cannupa Hanska Luger, photographer Cara Romero and painter Fritz Scholder. They are displayed along with historical works from the Met’s collection.

Max Hollein, director of The Met, said the exhibition tackles issues of worldwide importance.

“Water conservation is a timely and urgent subject for all the world,” Hollein said in a statement. “This exhibition considers the complex significance of water within Indigenous communities, and through a variety of works — illuminated by powerful writings of contemporary Indigenous voices — reveals how this essential element is critical not just for the survival of all peoples, but also for sustaining connections to living traditions and histories.”

The art on view includes a water-rights resistance denim jacket embroidered with a thunderbird, hand-carved children’s toys of whales and fishermen, paintings of oceans and beaches, photographs and video.

The works depict water as memories, nourishment, sanctuary, transportation and healing while instigating protest, conflict and dialogue in what Norby described as a “current, a stream of stories and memories."

The exhibit continues through April 2, 2023.

FILM: Motion picture academy adds diversity 

When it comes to motion pictures, who tells the story matters. But who votes for the story to win an Oscar also matters.

To that end, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the organization that runs the Oscars, has brought in new Indigenous members to this year’s class.

The new Indigenous members are director BlackHorse Lowe, Diné; producer Chad Burris, Chickasaw; writer/director Amanda Kernell, Sami; director Anne Lajla Utsi, Sami; screenwriter Briar Grace Smith, Nga Pugi; and actor Michael Greyeyes, Muskeg Lake First Nation Cree.

They were among 397 artists and executives invited to join this year, with more than a third belonging to underrepresented ethnic or racial minorities. Half are from countries and territories outside the United States.

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The academy is an honorary professional organization with the goal “to advance the arts and sciences of motion pictures.” Members must be sponsored by two academy members to join, although Academy Award nominees and winners are automatically considered for membership without a sponsor.

Members pay dues of $450 per year and get an ID card, newsletter, free screenings year-round, special access to the academy library and industry receptions. Most importantly, they have voting rights to choose winners in their category.

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ART: Drive-by art installation goes up on Long Island

A unusual new exhibit has premiered on two giant, digital billboards the Shinnecock Tribe fought to have installed along Sunrise Highway on Long Island.

Art by Shinnecock fine arts photographer Jeremy Dennis is among the works displayed on the Shinnecock Monuments on Long Island, New York as part of a Landback exhibition by the Parrish Art Museum. The billboard art will run through September 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Parrish Art Museum)

The Parrish Art Museum – which sits on Shinnecock land in the wealthy beach enclave of eastern Long Island – has activated the so-called Shinnecock Monuments through July, August and September as part of an exhibition, “Another Justice: US is Them.”

The monuments are part of the Landback Public Art Initiative by the artists coalition, For Freedom, which asked artists what the Landback movement means to them.

The result is an eye-catching, drive-by art moment.

The four artists featured on the monuments are:

—Jeremy Dennis, Shinnecock, a contemporary fine art photographer whose works explore identity, culture and issues of assimilation

—Jeffrey Gibson, Choctaw/Cherokee, a multimedia artist whose work ranges from beaded punching bags to pyramid-sized sculptures

—Koyoltzintli Miranda-Rivadeneira, Ecuadorian/Chi’xi, a multimedia artist and educator who focuses on geopoetics, ritual, storytelling and ancestral technology

—Marie Watt, Seneca, who uses blankets and embroidery to draw from history, Iroquois protofeminism and Indigenous teachings.

The Shinnecock fought to install the 62-foot electronic billboards along the highway leading to the Hamptons in 2019 to generate revenue for the nation. The area, which has been part of a dispute over land rights for decades, allows few billboards, no chain stores and very little development.

The latest works invite the viewer to recognize their relationship to the land in a high-tech way, with political messages embedded in bright artworks.

The exhibition, “Another Justice: US is Them,” will continue at the museum through Nov. 6. On Sept. 30, the museum will present a public program with the participating artists.

FILM: A history of injustice at Manzanar

A new film by award-winning director Ann Kaneko, Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust”, had a world broadcast streaming premiere on PBS on July 18 that will continue through Aug. 18.

The intergenerational story deals with a parcel of land in California containing a complex environmental and political history. Before World War II, Native people were driven out of Payahuunadü, the “land of flowing water,” now called Manzanar. Farmers and ranchers who worked the land were paid off by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

And during World War II, Manzanar became an imprisonment site for Japanese-Americans who were forced from their homes.

Filmmaker Kaneko tells the dual history of government injustice with interviews from both the Native and Japanese descendants, tracing the connections of the people and the parched valley. The film also shows the ongoing struggles of environmental and political activists still defending the land and water from Los Angeles.

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