PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Berkshire Museum will present an innovative exhibition, "Rethink! American Indian Art" -- featuring both striking contemporary art and important historic art objects -- on view from July 7 to Jan. 6, 2013, with an opening reception Thursday, July 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. and a Family Day of programs and activities on Saturday, July 14.
The exhibition feature contemporary works of art in a range of media and techniques, from video installations, contemporary basketry, and beadwork to ceramics, sculpture, and glass, by accomplished artists Marcus Amerman, Jeremy Frey, Teri Greeves, Diego Romero, Preston Singletary, and Bently Spang.
The exhibition also will include historic Native American art objects from Berkshire Museum’s permanent collections. "Rethink!" is co-curated by art historian Margaret Archuleta and Berkshire Museum’s director of interpretation Maria Mingalone and collections manager Leanne Hayden.
"Rethink! challenges many of the preconceptions and stereotypes of American Indian art,"Mingalone said in supplied material. "Showcasing historic material with the work of contemporary artists demonstrates that Indians have not disappeared, and that Indian artists continue to express themselves in a contemporary world. These artists reflect not only on their heritage, but on the human condition as experienced in contemporary life, as any artist would regardless of their background or cultural heritage."
The artists whose work will be exhibited in the show use traditional materials interchangeably with cutting-edge materials and the latest techniques -- "an integral part of their tradition to adapt and innovate, using what is around them to move forward creatively," according to supplied material.
For Spang, performance and video are a clear continuation of his Cheyenne heritage. On his magnificent war shirt assemblages, Spang incorporates modern objects in the same way a wife or mother would have included a medicine bundle or amulet on a war shirt made two hundred years ago for a family member.
Romero’s ceramic pots resemble, in shape and technique, ones made by his ancestors, but the iconography in his decoration is completely contemporary. Glass artist Singletary uses the symbolic, iconic imagery of the Tlingit, rendered in contemporary glass techniques in striking black and red.
"’Rethink!’ challenges us to reconsider our perceptions of American Indian art, as well as our understanding of American Indians and even what it means to be American," Museum executive director Van Shields said in supplied material.
The Museum’s collection of historic Native American art objects includes many items purchased in the early 20th Century, representing tribal nations from across the country, by the Museum’s founder Zenas Crane.
Visitors will see decorated moccasins, some with quills and others with beads; a Lakota Sioux feathered headdress; a deerskin frontiersman’s coat embellished with elaborate porcupine quill embroidery; a vividly patterned pipe bag embellished with both quills and beads; a meticulously woven Panamint figural basket; a beautiful Salish/Kootenai beaded cradleboard; and an exquisitely tiny Pomo gift basket covered in yellow and blue feathers.
The Museum is located at 39 South St., on Route 7. Admission is $13 and $6 for children. For information call 413-443-7171 or visit berkshiremuseum.org.