New curator plans lunch-hour tour of updated 'Roots and Journeys' exhibit

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Spencer Museum of Art's new curator of global indigenous art will lead a lunch-hour tour of her inaugural exhibit, an updated installation of “Roots and Journeys.”

The free tour with Cassandra Mesick is set for noon to 1 p.m. Friday at the museum, 1301 Mississippi St.

Mesick’s discussion will include her first acquisition for the museum, a set of colored pencil drawings on lined paper that reflect a Native American tradition transformed by circumstances and the passing of time.

The “ledger art” genre evolved after the 1874 Red River War, when United States military troops detained surviving Native American leaders and sought to westernize them through education, according to the museum’s announcement. Jailers gave the Native Americans ink, crayon, colored pencil and lined paper from unused ledger books, which the men used to create narrative scenes depicting their own histories. Ledger art, an updated version of the long-standing tradition of pictorial painting on buckskin, spread beyond the prison walls and endures as a genre in its own right.   

Other exhibit highlights include lavishly beaded gauntlets created by indigenous peoples of British Columbia and Alberta, works by a contemporary artist known in his native Senegal as the “dean of reverse glass painting” and a juxtaposition of 19th-century beaded moccasins and Vans skateboarding shoes painted by 21st-century artist Chris Pappan.

“Too often, ideas about ‘natives’ are linked to outdated stereotypes, which can make these communities seem frozen in a particular time and place,” Mesick said in a news release. “The reality is that their traditions have undergone as many transformations in form, medium, meaning and aesthetics as European or Asian art has.”

“Roots and Journeys” will remain on view throughout the 2013-2014 academic year.

Mesick, who joined the museum in October, holds a doctorate degree in anthropology from Brown University and spent five years in Guatemala doing archaeological research and field work and worked as an intern, research associate and board member at Brown’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology.