Tribal Nuances in Black and White

Tribal Nuances in Black and White

Paintings by RISD ProfessorDuane Slick are featured inWe Are Here!: The Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, which opened on June 2 at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York.

Working in a range of media – including artist’s books – Slick is known for examining themes that include the complex interaction between personal memories and cultural histories, and how this is continuously reshaped over time and by 21st-century realities.Kathleen Ash-Milby, a curator at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), describes his work inWe Are Here! as “employing a limited palette of white on white, and using shadow imagery to create a series of intriguing compositions. More recently, he began working with black on black, and with more illustrative imagery,” she adds.

“The Eiteljorg exhibition shows my transition from the white paintings to the black paintings,” Slick explains, noting that the white works are from a series calledInstructions on the Care and Use of White Space, while the black paintings are part of a body of work calledThe Untraceable Present.“The transition speaks to a number of things that were happening in my life at the time, namely the passing of both my parents, who were from two different tribes. One of the things I realized during that period was that I think of my mother’s tribal knowledge [Ho-Chunk] as being atmospheric, and of my father’s [Sauk and Fox Nation of Iowa/Meskwaki] as photographic. Both the black and the white paintings hold layers of meaning, and those meanings include my relationships with my parents and these two tribal nations.”

The Eiteljorg fellowship is a biannual program in which five American Indian fellows and a selected artist are chosen by an independent jury to receive an unrestricted honorarium of $25,000 to facilitate their growth as artists. Slick is joined by other2011 Eiteljorg fellows Bonnie Devine, Skawennati, Anna Tsouhlarakis and Alan Michelson (a former RISD faculty member) in the exhibition, which was organized by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

We Are Here!continues through September 23.

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