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Sandra Hale Schulman
Special to ICT

The latest: Animals tell tales in new art exhibit, a hat designer helps create an online marketplace, and a new single honors a musician's elder mother.

ART: Coyotes and rabbits as painted tricksters

Memory, childhood and mothering feature in the whimsical paintings of Julie Buffalohead, Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, whose solo exhibit, “Noble Coyotes,” opened this month at Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco.

Using metaphor and humor, Buffalohead conjures up a cast of animals straight from Indigenous stories.

A solo exhibit from Ponca artist Julie Buffalohead opened Nov. 10, 2022, at Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco and will remain open through Jan. 7, 2023. (Photo by Nathanael Flink, courtesy of Jessica Silverman Gallery)

In seven oil paintings and nine ink drawings, ermines, coyotes, rabbits, foxes, and muskrat tell enchanting tales of community, sacrifice, protest and morals.

The largest work, “All Are Welcome,” from 2022, depicts a group of ermines gated inside a miniature picket fence. While one sign says, “Private community, no trespassing,” another reads, “All are welcome here.” Looking on are a fox who cuts off his own tail, a bewildered raccoon and rabbit spirits rendered in ghostly white.

Another 2022 work, “The Noble Savage,” depicts an archetypal Native who is given beads and snakes by a playful band of otters. Nearby is a trickster coyote wearing a red dress with high heels. The coyote looks askance at the offerings, questioning both the givers and the given.

“Using an eclectic palette, my painting juxtaposes evolving representations of animal spirit, deer, and coyote forms, and speaks to issues of commercialization of Native culture,” Buffalohead said in a statement. “I’m always waiting for animals to talk again.”

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Buffalohead received her bachelor’s of fine arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and her master’s from Cornell University. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships.

The exhibit will remain open through Jan. 7.

ART/CRAFTS: Artist/hat designer teams with web host 

This time of year,  finding genuine, quality Native items online can be challenging.

A newly launched website, BuyNative.com, supports Native artisans at the local level all over Indian Country, featuring fashion, artwork, jewelry, literature, food and wellness products.

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ThunderVoice Eagle, Navajo, owner of the popular recycled and custom hat company Thunder Voice Hat Co., told ICT that GoDaddy reached out to his platform to collaborate on the site.

ThunderVoice Eagle, Navajo, owner of the popular recycled and custom hat company Thunder Voice Hat Co., has worked with GoDaddy.com to create a new marketplace, BuyNative.com, for Native artisans. This photo shows some of the hats and blankets offered by Thunder Voice Eagle Hat Co. (Photo courtesy of Thunder Voice Eagle Hat Co.)

“Between a lot of Native artists and businesses, it's always been a cross-marketing effort,” ThunderVoice Eagle said. “I know within the crew in my circle, we've always tried to cross-market online, help other brands who are trying to grow and connect. Our goal was always to be strategic. So when GoDaddy reached out to our platform to collaborate, we realized it would be easier for the artisan community and the public to have one site to go to.”

He said the new site provides a central location for shoppers for Native artists, who often are spread out over various websites. BuyNative expands the offerings with books and wellness products not usually found at art markets, and lets viewers look for artisans by tribal affiliation, region, and industry.

“It is a way of bringing the Native businesses, artists, entrepreneurs, all that, to the arena and make it easy to connect,” he said. “We realize the importance of who gets the profit off us and who gets to represent us. So hopefully we found the power in that and also being able to direct a lot of conversations around the issues in our community.”

A closely vetted admissions page lets new businesses apply for listing on the free site, as GoDaddy picks up all listing and hosting costs, he said.

“We've connected with all these artists organically in person, going to Indian market and The Gathering pow wows,” he said. “That's been the past way that one could come across Native arts. Now technology, it's opened up a whole new avenue of connecting and making it real easy.”

MUSIC: Midnight Sparrows release new solo project

Midnight Sparrows, a new solo project from Métis, Cree, and Dene musician Blair Bellerose, has released a debut album, “Born In The City,” and a single, “Butterfly Wings.”

The Vancouver-based musician, with funding from his tribe, Fort McKay First Nation, made Midnight Sparrows’ first-ever music video for “Butterfly Wings,” a song he wrote to honor his mother, a residential school survivor who died last year at age 87.

“Spread your butterfly wings,” sings Bellerose, “I want to see you be divine / you are divine.”

The album, engineered and mixed by Juno Award-winner Sheldon Zaharko, features six-songs.

The title track “Born in the City,” is personal, as he reflects on his urban Indigeneity.

“I grew up in the city / and it’s probably where I’ll die / but don’t forget that my people came / from the land under the Red River Sky,” he sings.

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