A new exhibit honoring Native American culture, Home Land runs through Sunday, September 17 at the Asheville Art Museum’s temporary On the Slope location.
Associate curator Carolyn Grosch partnered with Lynne Harlan of the Cherokee Indian Hospital to cull art from Southeastern Native artists. Most pieces were generously provided by collector Lambert Wilson, but the exhibit’s namesake, Home Land, comes from a work by Eastern Band Cherokee artist Shan Goshorn. At face value, the bright green basket feels modern, flaunting bold colors and clean lines. Upon closer inspection, however, Goshorn’s work is unmistakably conservative.
“Traditional patterns inform Goshorn’s baskets, but she introduces a contemporary mixed media approach,” says Grosch. “She weaves her baskets with watercolor paper printed with archival inks and sometimes embellishes the baskets with materials like acrylic paint or gold foil. Bright colors, photographic images and strips of text come together to address important human rights issues.”
Hoping to document fierce grit in the face of suffering, Goshorn incorporated a letter composed by chief John Ross. Written in 1836—two years before federal troops displaced the remaining Cherokee—Ross’s entreaty implores the US War Department to realize its follies.
“Our hearts are sickened…” the document reads, in part, “when we reflect on the condition in which we are placed, by the audacious practices of unprincipled men…”
The Trail of Tears proceeded nonetheless, leaving 4,000 to die during the movement westward. However grave, that atrocity does not define contemporary Cherokee culture—a point Goshorn drives home. In addition to Ross’s letter, her piece features centuries-old medicine stories. These narratives describe healing remedies like willow water and rabbit tobacco, and attest to biodiversity in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Other featured artists include Norma Howard, Troy Jackson, American Meredith, Sarah Sense and Tony Tiger. These artists represent several Southeastern Indian nations, including Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muskogee (Creek) and Cherokee.
“[They are] living artists whose work is deeply impacted by their culture and beliefs,” says Grosch. “This exhibition celebrates Southeastern Native cultures that are vibrant and thriving in our contemporary society.”
The Asheville Art Museum’s temporary On the Slope site is located at 175 Biltmore Avenue. Admission to Home Land is free; a $5 donation is encouraged. For more information, call 828.253.3227 or visit ashevilleart.org.