Indigenous artists share stories and histories at Intermedia Arts


Intermedia Arts looks to find storytelling commonalities amongst indigenous communities in a show that offers a fascinating mix of traditional oral history and a critique of colonial narratives. Presented by Ce Tempoxcalli, Electric Machete Studios, and Intermedia Arts, and curated by Anishinabe artist Gordon Coons and Latin American artist Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra, the exhibition pairs indigenous artists from North, Central, and South America.  

In the show, each pair uses one of two parts of a panel, which are cut to look like puzzle pieces. In some cases you can’t tell from a distance that the two works were created by different artists, as the color and shapes blend so well from one to the other. 

Gordon Coons and Zamara Cuyun’s collaborative work boasts a bright-blue background, with part of Coons’ imagery bleeding into Cuyun’s work and vice versa. The flood stories that serve as each of their source material have similarities as well, with creation and conflicts between living creatures on Earth and the Gods. Cuyun and Coons employ a seamless palette, creating a work that illustrates the similarities between the Maya and Anishinabe cultures.

Another pairing, between Maggie Thompson and Chholing Taha, finds the interconnection between Cree and Anishinabe stories about life cycles with two panels that are connected with ribbon. Like the Coons/Cuyun collaboration, Thompson and Taha find shared hues to bring out their stories, creating narrative-based works that flow into each other.

There’s also one piece in the show, by Gustavo Lira, that’s not a collaboration, but still uses the same puzzle/two segment format. In his work, La Layenda de Maiz (The Legend of the Corn), Lira tells the story of the feathered serpent, who uses his intelligence, rather than his strength, to split mountains in half. Lira’s illustration is a breathtaking portrait of the serpent’s strength as it reaches toward the sun. There's awonderful use of texture and light in the work.

While many of the pieces mine stories from folklore, there’s also an investigation of history, and a reclaiming of colonialist viewpoints. Julie Boada, for instance, references the history of boarding schools for Native children, and Colleen Casey shares the story of the Dakota/Lakota nation and its relationship to the land that we now know as Minnesota. It's a piece that challenges what children in school are given to read about.

Gustavo Lira: "La Layenda de Maiz (The Legend of the Corn)"

Gustavo Lira: "La Layenda de Maiz (The Legend of the Corn)"

You end up doing quite a bit of reading as you walk through the exhibition, since each artwork in the show is accompanied by text that shares a different story. It’s a treat to read each and see how the artists have interpreted them, and also how artists from different indigenous cultures find common ground. 


"Dimensions of Indigenous: Storytelling"

Through January 16

Intermedia Arts