KU’s Spencer Museum selects ‘Native Host’ as Common Work of Art

photo by: Ryan Waggoner

The "Native Host" series by Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds is KU's Common Work of Art, pictured on display outside the Spencer Museum of Art.

The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas has chosen a Native American artwork as KU’s Common Work of Art for the upcoming school year, according to a news release Tuesday from the museum.

The Common Work of Art, titled “Native Host,” by artist Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, is meant to complement KU’s Common Book selection, which is “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Themes in this year’s KU Common Book and Common Work of Art selections explore relationships among art, history, scientific thought and Indigenous ways of generating knowledge, according to the release.

This year also marks the first Common Book partnership between KU and Haskell Indian Nations University.

“Native Host” consists of five aluminum signs and is currently on display in front of the Spencer Museum on Mississippi Street. The signs name Native tribes who historically or currently inhabit the region now called Kansas. On each sign, the colonial name is printed backward while the name of the land’s original occupants is printed forward.

“The visual tension that Heap of Birds creates between these names aims to remind viewers of the displacement of Indigenous peoples from their homelands as well as their continued and active presence in the Americas,” the release states.

A Hawk Week event on Aug. 25 will invite students to engage with “Native Hosts” and create their own artwork that explores place, heritage, culture and memory.

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