By Mitchell J. Near
The American Indian art scene is not only alive and well, but it's also literally bursting at the seams with new and established artists, creating a plethora of work in almost every medium imaginable. And Lawrence -- known as an enclave for burgeoning artists and home to Haskell Indian Nations University -- will soon find itself inundated with fairs and exhibits throughout the next month.
Along with juried representational art on the Kansas University campus and a huge arts market featuring more than 165 American Indian artists on the Haskell campus, several smaller exhibits are being held throughout the city in conjunction with the larger shows.
The Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt, has garnered its share of exhibits this September, including one that essentially serves as a highlight reel for past shows.
"13 Years: Lawrence Indian Arts Show Posters" is a compilation of the best of previous shows, featuring poster-size representations of past winners of the event.
"It's extremely exciting to put up the collection and be involved," Lawrence Indian Arts Show coordinator Maria Martin says. "To see it all up in one space is pretty spectacular, and it's wonderful to showcase each one of the artists."
The posters are enlarged recreations of past winning works, including paintings and sterling silver and bronze work. Among the nationally recognized artists are Gwen Coleman Lester, Ben Harjo Jr., Brent Learned, Linda llmahafphwa, Sandra Okuma, Gina Gray, Frances Yellow, Roger McKinney, Gary Yoyokie, Craig Goseyan, Laurie Houseman Whitehawk and Dick West.
"We've had the collection building over the years, but it's interesting to see it on display, and it's good for viewers because at the market sometimes they don't get to see the artist, or get his information or find out his background and his ideas behind his work," Martin says.
The show is just the tip of the iceberg for local American Indian artists this month. Along with the posters, displays of beaded earrings and baby quilts are on display at the library, along with a five-panel oil mural by Lawrence artist Wayne Wildcat. "Quest for Freedom" portrays scenes ranging from the civil rights movement to the NASA moon mission. The mural will show briefly before it moves on to an exhibit at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Tex.
"It's separate from everything else done, but it's all part of a cooperative effort between the Lawrence Indian Arts Show, the Lawrence Arts Center, the Lawrence Public Library, KU and Haskell. It's all part of the six-week Indian arts show, though," Martin says.
Visitors to the Haskell market and the KU exhibit will see an eyeful of stunning work, including jewelry, painting, pottery, silver and bronze work and photography. All of which prove that the arts scene is quite active and expressive.
"The arts and crafts are just marvelous," Martin says. "The artists create from his or her past and express who they are and their hopes for the future as American Indians."
-- The Mag can be reached at 832-7178.