This work, Between Worlds, is made by Teri Greeves, a contemporary artist and beader. She is Kiowa, a Native American tribe (now based in Oklahoma) which once lived on the Great Plains and migrated with the bison. The object is inspired by a traditional Kiowa parfleche, a type of container made from rawhide—deerskin that has not been tanned and is stiff. Some parfleches are flat, rectangular containers, like folded envelopes; the Kiowa traditional form is cylindrical. Hers is made of two hides—the interior is rawhide, giving the container its shape, and the exterior is soft, tanned deer-hide, onto which she has sewn the beads.
Greeves learned beadwork from her mother, and made this work in her memory after she passed away. She adorned her parfleche with beaded images from Kiowa mythology and symbols relating to the history of Kiowa artists, and to her own ancestors. The beaded imagery is divided into three registers—the top represents the heavens and the realm of the sun. The middle is the earthly realm, and the bottom register represents the world of the ancestors.
A woman dangles by a rope, neither in heaven nor fully on earth. Greeves is referring to the Kiowa myth of a woman who married the sun. She missed her people and lowered herself and their son from the heavens by a rope. She did not survive the journey, but she left her son, who was half human and half divine, to lead the Kiowa people. The beaded trees and constellations refer to traditional calendar-keeping methods among the Kiowa. The lower register depicts images of Greeves’ own ancestors. Her mother’s hands are represented in sterling silver, as well as beaded ants, which are symbols of the ancestors.
Building a Museum Collection
From the earliest years of its existence, the Museum has had an important collection of traditional Native American art. Objects such as Pueblo pottery, Navajo blankets, beaded regalia, and sculpted masks reflect not only the vision, creativity, and artistic skill of the artists, but are cultural objects, embodying Native American life-ways, knowledge, and history.
The Museum is now focusing on building an outstanding collection of contemporary Native American art. In addition to the new piece by Teri Greeves, the collection includes work by Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Fritz Scholder, Annie Pootoogook, Merritt Johnson, Rick Bartow, Marianne Nicolson, Zoe Urness, and others. Media include painting, drawing, prints, photography, ceramics, textiles, and glass. These works reflect a range of contemporary Native experiences and identities, but are often connected in interesting ways to older objects, traditions, and histories.
Local patrons have generously lent from their collections of contemporary Pueblo ceramics, Navajo pictorial weavings, Inuit sculpture, glass sculpture, paintings, and prints. Patron support of artist visits, programs, acquisitions, and curatorial research and travel have been crucial to the growth of the collection, and a recent bequest from the estate of Dr. Clyde Oyster provides funds to support new acquisitions. Watch for a new exhibition in the summer of 2018, when the Museum will install the kinetic glass sculpture, Waterline, by Kwakwaka’ wakw artist Marianne Nicolson of Vancouver Island.