Swedish and Cherokee heritage blend in the work of two Santa Fe-based artists now on display at the Fort Lewis College Art Gallery. Yes, Swedish and Cherokee.
The work, primarily painting and mixed media, layers not only vastly differing cultures and languages, but shares a breadth of art-making techniques including linocut, intaglio, mono print, acrylic paint on differing surfaces, watercolor, gouache and encaustic. Prices range from $200 to $2,400.
Artist America Meredith is a hereditary member of Aniwodi, the Red Paint Clan. Meredith's work is influenced by Pop Art and imagery from '60s cartoons like "The Pink Panther." Her style isn't easy to pin down, and a broad range of imagery from the surrealistic to Arts & Crafts is found on the walls.
Elegant pen-and-ink drawings like "Kickingbird" and linocut prints of turtles, rabbits and fish are more traditional works. "Unohalid asoli Osda (To Hunt Well)," an acrylic painting on masonite with marble dust, evokes surrealism. There is humor in the serigraph of a teddy bear called "The Great Norman Mulberry Disaster," and brilliant color and design in "Wingspan," a small, square, acrylic painting on hardboard.
Meredith writes on her Web site that she is "hoping through research and experimentation to glean some understanding of our own tribally specific painting traditions." Acknowledging that current painting techniques of Cherokee and other Native American artists are borrowed from Europe, she quotes from Irish trader James Adair, who documented early Aboriginal Cherokee painting.
"Women found multiple uses for red mulberry. In addition to relying on the fruit for food, they wove the bark into floor and wall coverings. In 1715, a group of women made 'a large carpet of mulberry bark for Queen Anne' and 'twelve small ones for her Counsellours.' ... Such 'very handsome' carpets," wrote Adair, were painted with "images of those birds and beasts they are acquainted with" or depictions "of themselves, acting in their social and marital stations."
Few beasts are seen in the show, but birds, butterflies and botanicals are prevalent in the work of Cherokee artist Sallyann Paschall. Paschall's style is more elegant and consistent, her designs are graceful and her color palette is pleasing and accessible.
The syllabary of the Cherokee language - that's the set of written signs in a language that uses syllabic rather than alphabetic writing - figures prominently in both women's work and is the strongest imagery unique to their tribe.
"From the Woodlands" is a multicultural, multi-ethnic, generational look at art. It is art that looks back at ancient traditions, forward to what can be made now by women with contemporary life experience and that draws on long sidelong glances at the diversity with each woman's experience, their individual Swedish roots. And the work of both artists is beautifully executed with attention to detail.
email@example.comLeanne Goebel is a member of the International Association of Art Critics.