Ah-Wah-Nee symposium
Jun. 8, 2022

All photo credits Mikayla Whitmore.

AH’-WAH-NEE Symposium Panels and Performance

The Donna Beam Gallery and the UNLV Department of Art, in collaboration with the College of Fine Arts, present AH’-WAH-NEE (Paiute for ‘balance’), a momentous exhibition and symposium celebrating the beauty of Indigeneity through the art of local and regional Native American women and non-binary artists who hold space on the campus of UNLV, the traditional homelands of the Nuwuvi, Southern Paiute People. The goal at the heart of the AH’-WAH-NEE project is to teach Indigenous histories and contemporary issues to UNLV students, faculty, staff and the Las Vegas community while connecting and engaging with the regional Tribes whose stories will be told through art and conversation. Representation matters. Indigenous voices have been ever present on the front lines. The issues of Native women’s rights have always been deeply connected to the lands and continue to shape the artistic methodologies and activism around this wave of Indigenous feminism.

AH’-WAH-NEE positions balance as its overarching theme. Indigenous women reflect balance in their roles as mothers, daughters, sisters, elders, partners, community leaders, organizers, water protectors, activists, artists, curators, educators, scholars, storytellers, survivors, de-colonizers. The artists in the exhibition reflect AH’-WAH-NEE as proof of a thriving culture through their works, words and lives. Curated by Fawn Douglas. The exhibition was presented at the Donna Beam Gallery November 1-December 10, 2021. Catalogs will be available at the Donna Beam Gallery in Summer 2022. The symposium was documented by award-winning filmmaker Ben-Alex Dupris. The filmed documentation was funded through a MSISC grant (UNLV's Minority Serving Institution Student Council).

The AH’-WAH-NEE symposium invites Indigenous women artists from the Great Basin region and New Mexico to join us in a profound discussion about the connections between Indigenous feminist art practices, activism, and the land.

AH’-WAH-NEE Artists Panel I

A conversation with Paiute artists from the Great Basin region: Noelle Garcia, Loretta Burden, and Cara Romero. Moderated by Dr. Erika Gisela Abad. Introduction of AH’-WAH-NEE Exhibition & Symposium by Fawn Douglas. Welcome by Councilwoman Alfreda Mitre, Las Vegas Paiute Tribe.

November 5, 2021 at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art Auditorium, University of Nevada, Las Vegas 

Filmed and edited by Ben-Alex Dupris.

About the Panelists:

Loretta Burden (b. 1945) is a basket weaver, teacher and multimedia sculptor. Her basketry was featured in the book Basket Weavers of Tradition and Beauty by Mary Fulkerson and exhibited with a statewide traveling art exhibition in the 1980’s called Common Thread. Burden also worked with the Clark County Museum, Henderson, Nevada, to create one of their first Native American exhibitions and a Native basketry exhibition at the McCarran International Airport (now the Harry Reid International Airport). Burden has been featured as one of six “Nevada Women Making a Difference” for the Las Vegas Centennial Celebration in 2005, and as a community leader making positive changes to the cultural fabric of Las Vegas in the documentary “Women of Diversity.”

Based in the Chicago area, Noelle Garcia (b. 1984) is an artist and educator who focuses on themes of identity, family history, and recovered narratives in her work. She is an Indigenous artist from the Klamath and Paiute Tribes. She earned her BFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her MFA degree from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Her paintings, drawings, and soft sculptures have been exhibited in galleries and institutions across the United States. Garcia has earned awards and fellowships at various institutions including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Nevada Arts Council, the Illinois Arts Council, and the American Indian Graduate Center.

Cara Romero (b. 1977) is a contemporary fine art photographer. An enrolled citizen of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, Romero was raised between contrasting settings: the rural Chemehuevi reservation in Mojave Desert, CA and the urban sprawl of Houston, TX. Romero’s identity informs her photography, which is a blend of fine art and editorial photography shaped by years of study and a visceral approach to representing Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural memory, a collective history, and lived experiences from a Native American female perspective.

As an undergraduate at the University of Houston, Romero pursued a degree in cultural anthropology. Disillusioned, however, by academic and media portrayals of Native Americans as bygone, Romero realized that making photographs could do more than anthropology could with writing words, a realization that led to a shift in medium. Since 1998, Romero’s expansive oeuvre has been informed by formal training in film, digital, fine art and commercial photography. Romero takes on the role of storyteller by staging theatrical compositions infused with dramatic color, using contemporary photography techniques to depict the modernity of Native peoples, and illuminating Indigenous worldviews and aspects of supernaturalism in everyday life.

Romero regularly participates in Native American art fairs and panel discussions, and she was featured in PBS’ Craft in America (2019). She maintains a studio in Santa Fe, NM, and her award-winning work is included in many public and private collections internationally. Married with three children, she travels between Santa Fe and the Chemehuevi Valley Indian Reservation, where she keeps close ties to her tribal community and ancestral homelands.

Moderator Erika G Abad will be an Assistant Professor of Communications at Nevada State College at the start of Fall 2022. Prior to joining Nevada State College’s Data, Media, and Design Department, Dr. Abad was Faculty-in-Residence for the Interdisciplinary, Gender, and Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Nevada Las Vegas from Fall 2016 to Spring 2022. She has taught courses across the Latina/o, Gender and Sexuality, Interdisciplinary Studies and First-Year Seminar Programs. She’s been featured on podcasts like The Art People Podcast, Seeing Color Podcast, and Latinos Who Lunch. For blogs such as Latinx Spaces and Settlers + Nomads, Dr. Abad has written about the lasting impact of Marjorie Barrick Museum exhibits. As a member of the Women of Color Arts Festival collective, she will be curating an exhibit for the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art in the fall of 2022. 
 

AH’-WAH-NEE Artists Panel II

 

A conversation with three multi-disciplinary artists who use sculpture and performance in cultural story-telling: Fawn Douglas, Natani Notah, and Rose B. Simpson. Moderated by Dr. Erika Gisela Abad.

November 5, 2021 at the  Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art Auditorium, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Filmed and edited by Ben-Alex Dupris.

About the Panelists:

Fawn Douglas (b. 1978) is an Indigenous American “artivist” and an enrolled member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. She also has roots in the Moapa Paiute, Southern Cheyenne, Creek and Pawnee Tribes. She is dedicated to the intersections of art, activism, community, education, culture, identity, place and sovereignty. Within her art-making and activism, she tells stories to remember the past and to ensure that the stories of Indigenous peoples are heard in the present. Her studio practice includes painting, weaving, sculpture, performance, activist art and humor. She is currently working on her MFA degree with the Department of Art at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

Douglas is a dedicated advocate for environmental conservation, including the designation of Nevada’s Gold Butte as a historic national monument and her participation in the #NoDAPL protests at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. As a survivor of sexual assault, Douglas’s experience has given her the fire to speak up about women's rights, and she has been a vocal advocate for #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women). She continues to speak up for her sisters, and she is an active supporter of Our Bodies, Our Lands - the movement that recognizes the connection between protecting land, water and Indigenous people. She is co-founder of Nuwu Art + Activism Studios in downtown Las Vegas.

Natani Notah (b. 1992) is an interdisciplinary artist and a proud member of the Navajo Nation. Her current art practice explores contemporary Native American identity through the lens of Diné womanhood. Notah has exhibited her work at institutions, such as apexart, New York City; NXTHVN, New Haven; Tucson Desert Art Museum, Tucson; Gas Gallery, Los Angeles; The Holland Project, Reno; Mana Contemporary, Chicago; Axis Gallery, Sacramento; SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, and elsewhere. Notah has received awards from Art Matters, International Sculpture Center, and the San Francisco Foundation. Her work has been featured in Art in America, Hyperallergic, Forbes, and Sculpture Magazine and she has completed artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Grounds for Sculpture, Headlands Center for the Arts, This Will Take Time, Oakland, and Kala Art Institute. Notah holds a BFA with a minor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Cornell University and an MFA from Stanford University. Currently she is a 2021-2023 Tulsa Artist Fellow.

Rose B. Simpson (b. 1983) is a mixed-media artist from Santa Clara Pueblo, NM. Her work engages ceramic sculpture, metals, fashion, performance, music, installation, writing, and custom cars. She received an MFA in Ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011, and an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 2018. Her artwork is shown and collected by museums from across the continent including SITE Santa Fe; the Heard Museum; the Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Santa Fe; the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian; the Denver Art Museum; Pomona College Museum of Art; Ford Foundation Gallery; The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian; the Minneapolis Institute of Art; the Savannah College of Art and Design; and the Nevada Museum of Art as well as having her work shown internationally. 

Simpson lives and works from her home at Santa Clara Pueblo, and she hopes to teach her young daughter how to creatively engage the world. In November, 2021, Simpson collaborated with members of the local Las Vegas, Indigenous community to co-create an experience informed by their collective lifetimes of a post-apocalyptic reality. Her Las Vegas Transformance was presented by the Nevada Museum of Art with support from Art Nuwu Art + Activism Studios in Las Vegas, NV and artist Fawn Douglas. 

Moderator Erika G Abad will be an Assistant Professor of Communications at Nevada State College at the start of Fall 2022. Prior to joining Nevada State College’s Data, Media, and Design Department, Dr. Abad was Faculty-in-Residence for the Interdisciplinary, Gender, and Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Nevada Las Vegas from Fall 2016 to Spring 2022. She has taught courses across the Latina/o, Gender and Sexuality, Interdisciplinary Studies and First-Year Seminar Programs. She’s been featured on podcasts like The Art People Podcast, Seeing Color Podcast, and Latinos Who Lunch. For blogs such as Latinx Spaces and Settlers + Nomads, Dr. Abad has written about the lasting impact of Marjorie Barrick Museum exhibits. As a member of the Women of Color Arts Festival collective, she will be curating an exhibit for the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art in the fall of 2022.
 

We Danced, We Sang, Until the Matron Came
 


November 5, 2021at the Paul Harris Theatre, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

 Filmed and edited by Ben-Alex Dupris.

We Danced, We Sang, Until the Matron Came is the title of a painting by Jean LaMarr, a community artist-activist, printmaker and muralist of Paiute/Pit River ancestry with family ties to Northern Nevada and Northern California. This performance shines a light on the history and cultural impact of Native American Boarding Schools, presenting a talk by Stacey Montooth, Executive Director of the State of Nevada Indian Commission, accompanied by the art of Jean LaMarr and documentation of the Stewart Indian Boarding School, Southeast of Carson City, Nevada, culminating in a dance of resilience. Dancers: Kadie Ann Anderson (Fancy Shawl Dancer); Jared Chee-Anderson (Traditional Dancer); Sol Martinez (Jingle Dancer); and Gianna Yazzie (Fancy Shawl Dancer). This program was supported, in part, by WESTAF (the Western States Arts Federation) and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Stacey Montooth, a citizen of the Walker River Paiute Nation, is the Executive Director of the State of Nevada Indian Commission (NIC), appointed by Governor Steve Sisolak on Sept. 1, 2019. A member of his cabinet, Montooth is the liaison from Governor Sisolak to the 27 Nevada Tribal Nations, Bands, and Colonies.

A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Montooth has spent over a decade in service to Nevada Tribes. From 2012-2019, Montooth worked at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony as that Tribe’s first public relations/community information officer. Upon returning to Northern Nevada, Montooth was the Indian Education liaison for her alma mater, Churchill County High in Fallon, Nev. Before returning home to the Great Basin, Montooth spent nearly 12 years working in community relations, primarily in higher education and college athletics.

Jean LaMarr is a community artist-activist of Paiute/Pit River ancestry with family ties to Northern Nevada and northern California. Her work is on view in the Ah’-Wah-Nee exhibition, and a survey of her work will be presented at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada in 2022.

Kadie Anderson is a member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. Kadie resides in the Las Vegas Paiute Colony where she has lived all of her life. She is the daughter of the late KD Anderson, a respected elder from the community, and Jeannie Zermeno. As a youth, Kadie was taught the histories of the boarding schools from her father who lived the history. Kadie’s father was a child at the Stewart Indian School and had faced hardships as a youth stripped of cultural ways and language. It is this upbringing that drives Kadie to learn the Paiute language and cultural ways. Kadie is part of the Southern Paiute Language and Cultural Committee where she attends language classes and brings her son Jared Chee-Anderson and other family members to listen to the elders to know the ways of her people. Kadie is a Fancy Shawl Dancer, also known as the Butterfly Dance. She has been learning Pow Wow dance styles over the years and sharing this cultural tradition with her son and family. Kadie is steadily on her way to being a strong leader in her community and is a culture bearer. To be a leader in the Dance of Resilience at the We Danced, We Sang, Until the Matron Came performance was a personal endeavor. She danced for her father who had passed away. She danced for the children and those that could not dance anymore. She danced for the ancestors that were stripped of their rights to hold ceremonies and practice their dances and songs. 

In performing the Dance of Resilience in honor of the boarding school ancestors and survivors, Kadie was accompanied by her son Jared Chee-Anderson, Sol Martinez, and Gianna Yazzie who are also from the Las Vegas Paiute Tribal community with ancestral connections to Indian Boarding School survivors. Pow Wow dance styles exhibited include Fancy Shawl, Jingle, and Traditional Dance. Sol Martinez has roots in the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, Moapa Band of Paiutes, Southern Cheyenne, Muskogee Creek, Mexican and Pawnee peoples. Sol is a jingle dancer and is pursuing a degree in Music-Education at UNLV. Gianna Yazzie is Las Vegas Paiute, Mexican and Dińe (Navajo). Gianna is a fancy shawl dancer, and talented in the cultural arts of weaving, beading and regalia making. 

Thank You to AH’-WAH-NEE Partners:

Black Mountain Institute 

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas 

Desert Arts Action Coalition

Donna Beam Gallery 

Howard Watts, Nevada State Assembly Member 

Indigenous AF Inc.

Indigenous Educators Empowerment

The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe

Meow Wolf 

National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Humanities

Nevada Arts Council

Nevada Humanities

The Nevada Indian Commission

Nevada Museum of Art 

Nuwu Art + Activism Studios

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians 

Southern Nevada Conservancy 

UNLV American Indian Alliance

UNLV College of Fine Arts 

UNLV Department of Anthropology

UNLV Department of Art

UNLV Department of History

UNLV Interdisciplinary Gender & Ethnic Studies

UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art 

UNLV Minority Serving Institution Student Council 

UNLV Native American Alumni Club

UNLV Paul Harris Theatre 

WESTAF (the Western States Arts Federation) 
 

Land Acknowledgement Statement

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas wishes to acknowledge and honor the Indigenous communities of this region, and recognize that the university is situated on the traditional homelands of the Nuwuvi, Southern Paiute People. We offer gratitude for the land itself, for those who have stewarded it for generations, and for the opportunity to study, learn, work, and be in community with this land. We encourage everyone in this space to engage in continued learning about the Indigenous peoples who work and live on this land since time immemorial, including the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and the Moapa Band of Paiutes, and about the historical and present realities of colonialism. As one of the most diverse universities in the United States, UNLV believes it is important to recognize and appreciate the use of Southern Paiute land as part of its mission to be a welcoming and inclusive place for working and learning. 

To learn about the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and the Moapa Band of Paiutes.

AH’-WAH-NEE Links:

AH’-WAH-NEE

Ben-Alex Dupris

Donna Beam Gallery

UNLV Department of Art

UNLV College of Fine Arts

Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art

Paul Harris Theatre

Nuwu Art + Activism Studios