Voices So True

New Native American Art from the Clyde Oyster Bequest

October 09, 2021 - January 30, 2022 - Arrington Gallery

Artists offer a visual voice that gives shape and form to history, ideas, experiences, and feelings.Voices So True: New Native American Art from the Clyde Oyster Bequest features the work of seven contemporary Native American artists, whose vision gives voice to Native American perspectives, past and present.

Ranging in medium from photographs, prints, painting, and basketry, the works in the exhibition explore subjects including history and identity, environmental justice, healing from illness and violence, and giving voice to the voiceless.

The seven featured artists—Kay WalkingStick, Wendy Red Star, Norman Akers, Eugene Tapahe, Zoe Marieh Urness, Shan Goshorn, and Larry McNeil—are affiliated with many different tribal nations, including Cherokee, Navajo, Osage, Crow, Tlingit, and others.

In her series 1880 Crow Peace Delegation, Wendy Red Star adds handwritten text to a group of historic photographic portraits of Crow leaders–images over which the sitters had no control—and which were appropriated into popular culture. Norman Akers’ prints explore the perception of encounters between invading European colonists and Native Americans, and a painting by Kay WalkingStick evokes the heroic voyage of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce people who tried to walk to freedom. A basket by Shan Goshorn expresses support for the protesters at Standing Rock and draws attention to the same issue of environmental justice among the Eastern Band Cherokee. Photographs from Eugene Tapahe’s epic project—Art Heals: The Jingle Dress Project—document an artist’s vision and action to help bring about healing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All of the works in the exhibition have recently been acquired for the Museum’s permanent collection with the support of a generous bequest from the late Dr. Clyde Oyster, a professor and research scientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a longtime docent and volunteer at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

The title of this exhibition is inspired by the writings of Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Nation, and the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States.