New exhibits at New Jersey’s Visual Arts Center spotlight work by Indigenous artists


At the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey (VACNJ), The first water is the body, a new exhibit, takes its title from a poem by Natalie Diaz and features the multidisciplinary work of 16 Indigenous artists and creators from across North America. The art on display, which includes photography, video, sculpture, ceramics, basketry, beadwork and textiles, is intended to be a visual complement to Diaz’s text, accepting the body as the human form of water and that the fate of water is everyone’s fate. Exhibition curator, Maria Hupfield, artist, educator and Anishinaabek member of Wasauksing First Nation, Ontario, Canada, notes, “These artists work to produce seismic shifts in cultural perspectives that point to reciprocity. , critical responsibility and awaken solidarity with place, land and water.

Participating artists are Carrie Allison, Natalie Ball, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Mique’l Dangeli & Nick Dangeli, RYAN! Feddersen, Anita Fields, Shan Goshorn, Shannon Gustafson, Jewell Jenkins, Courtney Leonard, Marianne Nicolson, Wendy Red Star, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith & Neal Ambrose-Smith and Kali Spitzer.

Along with the view is Athena LaTocha: After the Falls, an installation responding to the great falls of the Passaic River in Paterson, New Jersey. To create the work, artist Athena LaTocha, who is interested in the relationship between natural landscapes and man-made environments, first researched the geological and cultural histories of the Great Falls site. . She then used thin sheets of lead to collect life-size imprints of the basalt rock walls surrounding the falls and incorporated them into large works on paper. Straddling the boundaries between drawing, painting and sculpture, these works mean conveying the mystery and power anchored in an ancient place that is both a natural wonder and a site of industrialization. This exhibition is curated by VACNJ curator Mary Birmingham.

Both projects are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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