Highlights Multi-Dimensionality Of Celebrated Painter's Art
For nearly five decades, Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935)
has charted an artistic career that is not bound by singular definition.
While her early work with Native themes celebrate heroic American
Indian leaders with stately, abstract compositions and her more
recent heroically scaled paintings recast American landscapes as
Native places, WalkingStick's artistic persona originates from roots
in the New York art world of the 1960s and 1970s and her immersion
in considerations of abstraction, minimalism and feminist art. "Kay
WalkingStick: An American Artist" is the first major retrospective
of WalkingStick's work, including more than 75 works that trace
her dynamic career from the 1970s to the present.
WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), Eternal Chaos / Eternal
Acrylic on canvas, 20.5 x 41 in. Collection of the artist.
Photo by Lee Stalsworth, Fine Art through Photography, LLC.
The exhibition will be on view from Nov. 7 through Sept. 18,
2016, in the National Museum of the American Indian's third-floor
gallery. The American Federation of the Arts will tour the exhibition
to the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio (Feb. 9, 2017May
7, 2017), Montclair Art Museum in Montclair, N.J. (Feb. 3, 2018June
17, 2018) and two additional venues in 2017. "Kay WalkingStick:
An American Artist" is co-curated by Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo),
associate curator, and David Penney, associate director for museum
scholarship. It features both well-known works, such as WalkingStick's
"Chief Joseph" series and hallmark diptychs, as well as never-before-seen
works, richly illustrated sketchbooks from the artist's personal
collection and a gallery film featuring the artist discussing her
work and process. A press preview will be held Monday, Nov. 2.
WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), Chief Joseph series, 197476.
Acrylic, ink, and wax on canvas, 20 x 15 in. each. (27 panels
of a 36-panel series).
National Museum of the American Indian
"For her entire career, Kay WalkingStick has been rewriting
the narrative about Native peoples through her artwork, which has
defied categorization," said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the
National Museum of the American Indian. "These seeming contradictions
and complexity are part of being an American Indian today, and what
makes her an American artist. Our nation itself is built upon diversity
of culture and expression. WalkingStick's background and art reflect
this same richness and diversity."
The organization of the exhibition is chronological and features
five major sections: "The Sensual Body," "Material and Meaning,
"Two Views: Diptychs," "Italian Romance" and "Landscape: The Power
of Native Place." WalkingStick's career progressed from an early
focus on feminism and minimalism to spiritual explorations of landscapes
through use of abstraction. Beginning in the 1980s, she began to
more directly confront Native identity, both personal and within
national histories, a practice that is still reflected in the artist's
most recent paintings. After several semesters teaching and living
in Italy spread over 17 years as a professor at Cornell University,
the influence of Italian art and environment is also prevalent in
many of her later works.
WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), New Mexico Desert, 2011.
Oil on wood panel, 40 x 80 x 2 in. Purchased through a special
gift from the Louise Ann Williams Endowment, 2013.
National Museum of the American Indian
"Kay WalkingStick is arguably one of the most important American
painters working today," said Penney. "But her resistance to a narrow
program and insistence on defying categorization makes her enormous
accomplishment less subject to summary and generalization."
"Even avid followers of WalkingStick's work will be surprised
at the depth and breadth of her art practice," said Ash-Milby.
WalkingStick's biography is inextricably intertwined with her
art. The exhibition examines key moments of her life, which further
illuminate the artist's methods and motivations. Her entrance into
the male-dominated New York art scene in the late 1960s and early
1970s, with her exhibition of vivid, playful explorations of the
body, set the pace for a career of innovation and unique expression,
breaking down barriers for both women and American Indian artists.
Although her family moved from the Cherokee Nation to New York state
before she was born, her exploration of Native history and her own
identity is underscored in later evolutions of her work that focus
on landscapes of the American Westa journey that continues
The museum will hold a free symposium in honor of WalkingStick,
titled "Seizing the Sky: Redefining American Art," Thursday, Nov.
5, from 1 to 5:30 p.m. in the museum's Rasmussen Theater. It features
a diverse roster of nine scholars, artists and curators, including
Cornell University's Jolene Rickard, the renowned artist Robert
Houle (Saulteaux) and Lisa Roberts Seppi of State University of
New York in Oswego. The program celebrates the artist and uses her
groundbreaking work as a launching point for a fresh perspective
and dialogue about contemporary American art and how other Native
artists are redefining it.
Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist, features more than
200 of WalkingStick's most notable paintings, drawings, small sculptures
and sketchbooksas well as the diptychs for which she is best
known. In this first comprehensive catalog of her artistic career,
WalkingStick's fascinating and complex biography is finally captured
in vivid relation to her artwork, a life story that has only been
glimpsed before in disparate pieces. The biographical timeline and
extensive bibliography make this an outstanding resource. The catalog
is edited by Ash-Milby and Penney, with a forward by Gover; major
essays by Ash-Milby, Penney, Kate Morris, Margaret Archuleta (Tewa/Hispanic),
Seppi, Lucy Lippard; and contributions by Jessica Horton, Houle,
Miles Miller (Yakama/Nez Perce), Judith Ostrowitz, Erica WalkingStick
Echols Lowry (Cherokee) and WalkingStick, herself. On-sale date:
November 2015. Price: $50/Pages: 208. ISBN: 978-1-58834-510-3. Smithsonian
Books. Available in bookstores, online retailers, including www.SmithsonianStore.com,
or by phone at 1-800-242-6624.
About the National Museum of the American Indian
For additional information about the National Museum
of the American Indian, visit www.AmericanIndian.si.edu.
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About the American Federation of the Arts
The AFA is a nonprofit institution that organizes art
exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishes
exhibition catalogs and develops various educational programs. Over
the years, millions of visitors in museums around the world have
viewed more than 3,000 AFA exhibitions. For more information about
AFA's exhibitions, publications and events, visit www.afaweb.org.
WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), Me and My Neon Box, 1971.
Acrylic on canvas, 54 x 60 in. Collection of the artist.
Photo by Lee Stalsworth, Fine Art through Photography, LLC