This fall the department of art and the Donna Beam Gallery 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 holding space on the campus of UNLV, the traditional homelands of the Nuwuvi, Southern Paiute People.
AH’-WAH-NEE is curated by Fawn Douglas, Las Vegas artivist and graduate student in the department of art. Fawn 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 AH’-WAH-NEE exhibition will be on view in the Donna Beam Gallery from Nov. 1 -Dec. 10 and the symposium will take place Nov. 4-5 at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art Auditorium and the Paul Harris Theatre during Native American Heritage Month. The symposium begins with an artist’s talk Nov. 4, followed by discussion panels during the day and a performance by Jean LaMarr in the evening of Nov. 5 funded, in part, by the Western States Arts Federation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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. Indigenous voices have been ever present on the frontlines. The issues of Native American 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 feminisms.
“The voices of Indigenous women have always been valued amongst Indigenous communities,” Fawn Douglas said. “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.”
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, and decolonizers. The artists in the exhibition reflect AH’-WAH-NEE as proof of a thriving culture through their works, words and lives. The 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 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.
- Melissa Melero-Moose, founder of the Great Basin Native Artists, who is influenced by imagery found in the Great Basin landscape, from petroglyphs to beadwork, and basketry.
- Natani Notah, who makes work that centers her Diné (Navajo) identity with impactful narratives through performance and mixed media artwork.
- Cara Romero, whose photography represents cultural memory, collective history, and lived experiences from a Native American female perspective.
- Rose B. Simpson, a mixed-media artist whose work engages ceramic sculpture, metals, fashion, performance, music, installation, writing, and custom cars. It is collected in museums across the continent and exhibited internationally.
- Roxanne Swentzell, 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 significance of this project cannot be overstated," said Jerry Schefcik, director of UNLV Galleries. "The Donna Beam Gallery is elated to present the work of these remarkable Native American women artists.”
The AH'-WAH-NEE community partners include The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and the Nevada Museum of Art.
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.