Indigenous art has long existed under the radar at Yale University, with its thousands of artworks and cultural and sacred items residing in disparate collections scattered throughout the campus.
“Objects have been displayed in glass cabinets or tucked away in storage, in wooden drawers and steel cabinets, with catalogue numbers scrawled across their birch bark, river cane and hide,” the curators write in introducing “Place, Nations, Generations, Beings: 200 Years of Indigenous North American Art,” a compelling exhibition that draws upon objects from the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
The beautiful and poignant show is in many ways a paean to the 40 Indian nations whose art is finally being given the respect it deserves. Co-curated by three Yale university graduates, Katherine Nova McCleary (Little Shell Chippewa-Cree), Leah Tamar Shrestinian and Joseph Zordan (Bad River Ojibwe), 92 objects perform “as emissaries” to cultures that have been misrepresented, abused and interpreted through the lens of the Colonial settler or ethnographer. Delving into Yale’s “entangled, often-violent, shared history,” its curators write, made it all the more imperative that this complex story needed to be revisited and reframed.