At the Renwick, the Personal, Global, and Indigenous Meld

Maggie Thompson, The Equivocator, 2021
rope, wire, stockings, thread, ribbon
3.5 x 5 feet

For the first time since its founding in 2000, the Renwick Invitational features only Indigenous artists. “Be careful, however,” writes Forbes’s Chadd Scott, “not to consider their art exclusively from Indigenous perspectives.”

Guest curated by Lara M. Evans, the Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibition features 55 works by artists Joe Feddersen (Arrow Lakes/​Okanagan), Lily Hope (Tlingit), Ursala Hudson (Tlingit), Erica Lord (Athabaskan/​Iñupiat), Geo Neptune (Passamaquoddy) and Maggie Thompson (Fond du Lac Ojibwe)

“All the works in the exhibition were created to intentionally communicate across cultural boundaries,” says Evans. “There may be some aspects in the works that only people from the artist’s own community will understand, but the works are intended to be evocative for all of us who encounter them.”

While Thompson’s installations may seem to speak to missing and murdered Indigenous women, they also speak to both deeply personal themes and the global issue of violence against women.

“Yes, I identify as a Native female, but I’m not speaking on behalf of [missing and murdered Indigenous women], it’s coming from a more universal perspective,” Thompson tells Scott. “[MMIW] is a really important topic, but I come at [abuse] from an individual perspective hoping that others from all different backgrounds will be able to relate.”

Of her piece The Equivocator (2021), a twist of intestine-like coils of nylon stockings, she tells the Renwick Gallery in a new video, “Everyone experiences grief in life, but may not always be able to talk about it so my art is a way to process and go through those emotions and put it in a visual form.”

Read “Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Invitational Features Six Contemporary Indigenous Artists.”