The Donna Beam Gallery and the 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 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 frontlines. 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. The participating artists are:
- Loretta Burden, a leader in basket weaving revival arts; she teaches traditional styles while subverting weaving techniques with modern materials.
- Noelle Garcia, an artist and educator from Nevada and the Klamath and Paiute tribes whose work focuses on themes of identity, family history and recovered narratives.
- Jean LaMarr, a community artist-activist, printmaker and muralist of Paiute/Pit River ancestry with family ties to Northern Nevada and Northern California.
- Melissa Melero-Moose, a Reno-based artist and founder of the Great Basin Native Artists, is influenced by imagery found in the Great Basin landscape, from petroglyphs to beadwork and basketry.
- Natani Notah, a Bay Area-artist and educator, who makes work that centers her Diné (Navajo) identity with impactful narratives through performance and mixed media artwork.
- Cara Romero’s, a Santa Fe-based artist, whose photography represents cultural memory, collective history, and lived experiences from a Native American female perspective.
- Rose B. Simpson, a Santa Clara Pueblo artist, whose work includes ceramic sculpture, metals, performance, music, installation, writing, and custom cars, and is collected by museums across the continent and is exhibited internationally.
- Roxanne Swentzell, also a Santa Clara Pueblo artist, whose clay figures represent the complete spectrum of the human spirit portraying the balance of power between male and female.
- Shelby Westika, whose digital paintings layer music, emotion, online worlds of video games, and her memories of performing in a Zuni Pueblo band.
The AH’-WAH-NEE exhibition is on view in the Donna Beam Gallery from November 1 through December 10, 2021, with the symposium taking place November 4 and 5, 2021 during Native American Heritage Month at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art Auditorium and the Paul Harris Theatre. The symposium begins with an artist’s talk Thursday, November 4, followed by discussion panels during the day and a performance, funded, in part by WESTAF (the Western States Arts Federation) and the National Endowment for the Arts, the evening of Friday, November 5. The symposium events precede UNLV’s College of Fine Arts Art Walk 2021, when the CFA welcomes the public to campus to celebrate the arts and our diverse cultures through art exhibitions, dance, music, performance and more.
AH’-WAH-NEE is curated by Fawn Douglas, Las Vegas artivist and graduate student in the Department of Art. Douglas is an Indigenous American artist, an enrolled member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, and co-founder of the Nuwu Art + Activism Studios in downtown Las Vegas. “The voices of Indigenous women have always been valued amongst Indigenous communities,” Douglas underscores. “To share our words is a gift to those willing to listen. To share our stories through art is a gift from the spirit that will touch those willing to open their minds and hearts. AH’-WAH-NEE is our heart song.” Jerry Schefcik, Director of UNLV Galleries, commented that, “The significance of this project cannot be overstated.”
We are grateful for the AH’-WAH-NEE Partners who have made this project possible:
- UNLV College of Fine Arts
- UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art
- UNLV Paul Harris Theatre
- UNLV Native American Alumni Club
- UNLV Minority Serving Institution Student Council
- UNLV American Indian Alliance
- UNLV Department of History
- UNLV Department of Anthropology
- UNLV Interdisciplinary Gender & Ethnic Studies
- The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
- Nevada Museum of Art
- The Nevada Indian Commission
- The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
- The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe
- Southern Nevada Conservancy
- Black Mountain Institute
- Meow Wolf
- Desert Arts Action Coalition
- Nevada State Assemblymember, Howard Watts
- WESTAF (the Western States Arts Federation)
Image: Melissa Melero-Moose, Access Denied, mixed media with pine nuts on canvas, 36" x 48", 2021. Photo courtesy of the artist.