Native American Art Show A Success

by Teri Vance

 

The two-part Great Basin Native Artists exhibit on display at the Carson City Culture and Tourism Authority, which will be wrapping up in November, has been a popular and successful show. “It was awesome,” said Melissa Melero-Moose, co-founder of the Great Basin Native Artists. “We had so many more people attend this show than our other shows.” The exhibit, which kicked off in February with the first group of five artists, continued with five new artists beginning in June. “By showing at the (tourism authority), we’ve been able to show a lot of tourists what Native artists have to offer,” Melero-Moose said. “That’s exciting for our group.”

The first set of artists represented contemporary work from Great Basin artists. “I don’t do traditional Native artwork,” explained artist Topaz Jones, who was among the artists in the first exhibit. “When I create my work, I think a bit about where people left off with designs and painting, and I incorporate that. I think about evolving it forward, using tradition as a source of inspiration then adding to it.” The second group included more traditional art, Melero-Moose said. In fact, she had to convince some of the participants that their work really was art. “They see regalia making and beadwork as just something they do, not necessarily art,” she explained. “It took some convincing.” For example, Tork Rains, a Navajo, has always been an artist, but hasn’t necessarily considered himself a Native American artist. However, he said, he’s grown as an artist, he’s come to incorporate more of his heritage into his work and also to see the value in contemporary work under the Native American umbrella.

 

“I’m a Native American artist, and I embrace that,” he said. “Some of my work has hints of that.” Coyotes are a theme in his work, he said, which can be seen as a representation of his people. “Coyotes, as a species, they’re survivors,” Rains said. “Native American people are also survivors. They endured a lot and are still enduring. That’s what this piece means to me.”
Ultimately, Melero-Moose hopes shows like this one will help distinguish the work of the Great Basin artists from other Native American art as well as become a catalyst for creating a center to permanently display Great Basin art. “There’s nowhere for us to see this kind of work,” she said. “Native artists are underrepresented in this state. We have no gallery, no cultural center. If you don’t have baskets in your family, there’s no place for our kids to see them without making appointments to go into vaults.”

Joyce McCauley, who was raised in Dresslerville by her parents who met at Stewart Indian School, said keeping the art traditions alive is her way of preserving a heritage that has otherwise been lost in many ways. “My father spoke Washoe fluently, but he never passed it down to me,” she said. “Sometimes, it just feels like a part of me has been taken away. “We live in two worlds. We live on our reservations, and we know our history. We do want to keep what we do have left and pass it on to our grandchildren.”