Contemporary Art in Native America: Deep Roots

August 1st, 2017 - August 31st, 2017

Contemporary Art in Native America: Deep Roots is a featured exhibition for August highlighting artists Roy Boney Jr.Leah CowdenJeff EdwardsWanbli Gamache and Bobby C. Martin as they express the impact of life through their art, and the ownership of intellectual cross-currents that inform the contemporary art space within which they reside. Their works signify experiences at the root of their cultural survival to these times. These artists come from a background of deep participation as citizens of the Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Nation card holder, or identifying in the Indigenous diaspora because of movements and mixture. This exhibition is supported by the Walmart Foundation.


Roy Boney Jr. ᎧᏂᎦ ᎪᎳᎭ is a full blood citizen of the Cherokee Nation living in Tahlequah, OK. He is an award winning filmmaker, artist, writer and language preservationist. His work has been shown throughout the United States and internationally. Boney’s art is based in Cherokee stories, language and tradition combined with contemporary elements such as science fiction and rock music. He is currently in the group exhibition, Return from Exile: Contemporary Southeastern Indian Art. Roy Boney holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Oklahoma State University and an MA in Studio Art from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.


Leah Cowden is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation who lives with her family in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Her passion for art began at a very young age when she realized that drawing was a way to express her feelings. Today, that same cathartic element is evident in her paintings rendered on doors. The doors represent the passage to a higher emotional plane and reflection of the viewer’s own soul. Cowden graduated from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville with a BA in Psychology.


Jeff Edwards is an award winning Cherokee graphic artist who has worked for the Cherokee Nation for 17 years and with the Cherokee language in varying degrees. He is a language activist working with Education Services Language Technology Group at Cherokee Nation and the primary goal is to work with technology companies to have the Cherokee language represented on phones, tablets and operating systems. Jeff says his artwork is almost exclusively Cherokee themed, always trying to display the Cherokee syllabary to some degree, in an attempt to promote the Cherokee language and likes using old cultural concepts but expressing them with modern electronic tools. He is currently in the group exhibition, Return from Exile: Contemporary Southeastern Indian Art. Edwards attended Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS and received his BA in Graphic Design from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK.


Wanbli Gamache is of the Native American diaspora with roots in the Cherokee and Sioux Nations. Wanbli’s “most recent work focuses on large-scale installation projects that incorporate sound, video and sculpture.” He is “intrigued by the relationship between viewer and art, exploiting electronics and robotics technology to create an interactive experience.” Wanbli Gamache received a BA in Anthropology and did post graduate work in art at the University of Arkansas, and is about to enter the MFA program this fall at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Bobby C Martin is a printmaker, painter educator and curator who works out of his 7 Springs Studio near West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma. Martin’s artwork is exhibited and collected internationally. He has been featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions, the most recent being a one-person exhibition entitled Back in the Day, in the East Gallery of the Oklahoma State Capitol in 2011. An enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) tribe, Martin is highly active in the contemporary Native art world. In 2013, he curated Indian Ink, an exhibition of historic and contemporary Native printmakers from the Dr. J.W. Wiggins Collection of Native American Art in Little Rock, Arkansas. His most recent curatorial project is a national touring exhibition, Return from Exile: Contemporary Southeastern Indian Art, which is on display at various museums and art centers throughout the United States through 2018. Martin’s work is in numerous museum collections, including the Philbrook Museum and Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, and the Sam Noble Museum in Norman, Oklahoma. Martin currently holds a Professor of Visual Arts position at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. He frequently leads printmaking worksops and artist retearts at his studio and at museums and art centers in the MIdwest. Martin says, “old family photographs passed down from my full-blood Muscogee (Creek) grandmother, my mother, and my aunts and cousins provide a nearly endless supply of resources for my artwork.”

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