Fit to Be Bound: Nancy Callahan, Moving Target, 2010
Frank Buffalo Hyde, Onondaga, God Save the Queen, 2010
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 in.
Courtesy of the artist
Fit to Be Bound: Maria Schaer, Of The Errors of My Heart Too Numerous to Count, 2008
Tom Huff. Seneca-Cayuga, Seventh Generation, 2008
Brazilian soapstone
Private Collection
Fit to Be Bound: Dennis Yuen, Rapunzel, 2009
Ronni-Leigh Goeman, Onondaga (basket), Stonehorse Goeman, Onondaga (sculpture), Mother Moon, 2010
Black Ash, sweet grass, moose hair, and antler
Courtesy of the artists
Photo: Dave Revette Photography

Haudenosaunee: Elements

November 13, 2010 – January 30, 2011

“That’s what we do, we make things.”

The act of creating works of art is embedded in the  Haudenosaunee way of life and has been for centuries. This exhibition presents works by contemporary Haudenosaunee artists from the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy—Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga and Tuscarora. The artists range from those with well established careers to new and notable talents. Among those exhibiting are Jay Carrier, Harold Farmer, Katsitsionni Fox and Ed Burnam, Ronni-Leigh Goeman, Stonehorse Goeman, Tom Huff, Frank Buffalo Hyde, Ada Jacques, G. Peter Jemison, Peter B. Jones, Linley Logan, Shelley Niro, Aweñheeyoh Powless, Jolene Rickard, Clint Shenandoah, Leah Shenandoah, Natasha Smoke Santiago, Smiley Summers, Tammy Tarbell-Boehing, and Tracy Thomas.

This is the first exhibition of Haudenosaunee contemporary art at the Everson Museum since the 1970s. The exhibition is co-curated by Senior Curator Debora Ryan and invited artist Tom Huff with the assistance of artist Aweñheeyoh Powless (Onondaga), an MFA graduate student at RIT and Everson summer intern. Tom Huff is an award-winning artist who has participated in and curated numerous exhibitions during his career. He attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and earned his BFA at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1984. Tom Huff is a Seneca-Cayuga from Cattaraugus who lives with his family at the Onondaga Nation.

Primarily a sculptor who works with stone, Huff has created provocative mixed media installations that address social, political, and cultural issues ever present in contemporary Native American life. Seventh Generation (2008), a large sculpture carved from Brazilian soapstone, portrays the Haudenosaunee universe with a turtle representing the earth and an eagle referencing the sky. Six faces symbolizing the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy emerge from the eagles outstretched wings. The Tree of Peace, a White Pine, links the earth and sky, a constant reminder that all things are connected. The seventh generation, which is a metaphor for all future generations that must be considered with every decision made by those living today, is represented by a newborn baby emerging from the stone within. 

Ronni-LeighGoeman is one of only a handful of artists who continue to make baskets using the wood of the black ash tree and sweet grass. A tradition passed down in her family, basket-making, a multi-step, lengthy process, begins with a tree which must be stripped of its bark and pounded by hand to release the individual rings which are then sliced into strips for weaving. The sweet grass can only be picked in late summer, and is used as a decorative treatment woven into the basket.

Haudenosaunee: Elements does not attempt to provide a survey of contemporary art—the talented artists working in our region are too numerous to be represented in this exhibition— but rather to introduce viewers to the broad range of media and art forms by which contemporary artists continue to create their own individual visual language while never straying far from their cultural heritage.