Art is Story

When Mia began planning an exhibition of art by Native women, artistDyani White Hawk was among the first people consulted. White Hawk grew up in Wisconsin, negotiating her identity as a woman of mixed Lakota and European ancestry—a quest that shaped her early art. Since moving to Minnesota in 2011, she has in turn shaped the local art scene, serving as a gallery director and a curator while making paintings that blend traditions of abstraction from both Native and non-Native art.

Her advice, as one of nearly two dozen Native women involved in the creation of “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists,” helped the exhibition fulfill its potential as the first major show of its kind. “It’s meant to operate as a shift in power,” she says, a counter-weight to centuries of white male dominance in the art world.

“The story of Art with a capital A has been ‘who are the masters, who are the top dogs,’” she says, a story that elevated Western views of aesthetics and excluded Native women. “Our artworks carry teachings, carry stories—there’s a lot of cultural knowledge embedded in it. It’s more than just making something beautiful.”

In her studio in northeast Minneapolis, she explains the role of Native women as history keepers, a legacy honored by “Hearts of Our People.” Passing artistic techniques from one generation to the next—woman to woman—not only keeps the story going, it keeps the community going. “Aesthetics,” she says, “remind you how to be in the world.”

Past Stories

Art is Story 2018

Pierce is smaller than most of the art at Mia; almost everything in the galleries is something he could imagine crawling into and staying a while. And so he did, last Halloween.

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