NHMU Showcases “Unique Styles” of Native American Art

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The Natural History Museum of Utah is set to celebrate its fourth Indian Art Market, a yearly event showcasing local native artists. More than 20 artists will present their original jewelry, pottery, beadwork and paintings to the Salt Lake community.

“Part of the reason for doing an art market is to help artists get their names out,” said NHMU store manager Suzanne Ruhlman, “and make their work known in this community. It’s a great place to sell their work so they can continue to create it. If an artist doesn’t have a chance to sell their work, the culture of it can drop by the wayside. Future generations won’t go into the ‘family business’ if there’s no support for that artwork — it can disappear.”

The event is an opportunity for local artists to both display and sell their work, while participating in a juried show, meaning those artists will be judged for the work they display. Applicants must submit their work to a reviewing committee of museum staff and a Native American advisory board.

image3“It takes on a different element when you have a juried show,” Ruhlman said. “We’ve found that we’ve really gotten the ‘creme-de-la-creme’ of artists in their different genres, whether it’s painting or jewelry or pottery or anything else. It kind of takes it up to a whole different level.”

According to local artist and member of the Navajo nation, Gilmore Scott, it’s not often you find shows like the NHMU’s Indian Art Market in Utah.

“It was the first juried show I’d heard of, at least in a very long time,” he said. “I’ve traveled quite extensively to a few shows per month selling my work. I’ve now been attending the Indian Art Market since it started four years ago […]. The museum puts on a good show of high quality artists. It’s a well-produced show which I enjoy selling my work at.”

The market aims to showcase native art forms, whether they are based in traditional designs or something more contemporary with a modern spin, such as Scott’s bright, colorful landscape paintings.

“I take geometric designs you commonly see in Native American culture and incorporate them into my pieces,” he said. “But I like to go all out when it comes to color — I’m not shy about my color palette. I incorporate geometric designs but tend to not follow what would normally be considered Native American art, where you’d find more earth-tone colors. But I just go all out.”

image2The museum has a history of having a strong relationship with the Native American community in Utah and, with the market, hopes to strengthen knowledge of native art and culture in the community.

“Utah does have several different indigenous people living throughout the state,” Scott said. “A lot of times people are used to just seeing Native American art in national parks — something quick you can find in a tourist-attraction setting. Sometimes people can see our artwork as more of a craft-style rather than the fine artwork it really is. […]  All of my work is one-of-a-kind, original pieces. I think more people need to see that we are artists in that sense. It’s nice to be close to home where people can see not only my work, but the unique styles we all have as artists.”

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Photos courtesy of Gilmore Scott