Steven Yazzie’s Upside Down World

Navajo artist Steve Yazzie is circling back to painting after year of exploring video and film and installation art. I first saw Steven’s work at the museum at the Institute of American Indian Art. He was part of the show curated for Crystal Bridges by Mindy Besaw, Candice Hopkins and Manuela Well-Off-Man, called Art for a New Understanding, Native Voices, 1950 to Now.

The work they had was an installation of his Drawing and Driving project. He had built a cart and attached a small easel to the steering wheel and frame. The idea was to hop on and set off down a hill and at the same time, start sketching what you saw flying by at ever increasing speeds. Fun. Harrowing. But, yeah, fun!

As part of the project, which began at a residency at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. It grew into a larger venture when he took his vehicle to other sites in the West and invited fellow artists and friends to hop on board and give it a go. And though the idea may seem absurd–attempting to draw while steering a cart down a hill–it’s kind of how we’re seeing the land, whistling down the highway and top speed, glimpsing bits and pieces out of the corner of an eye. We take it all for granted, so why not draw and drive, if only to scare the bejesus out of yourself and, maybe, snap yourself out of the trance of modern life if only for a short, rough ride?

The painting in Allegories of Transformation is part of Steven’s return to the studio to paint. Check out his website for his many videos and other paintings. And, of course, to read more about Steven, go to his site and ours at the PACE Center.

Diego Romero, Pop-Native-Fiction

Diego Romero’s work does this crazy thing: it draws you in because it looks like very old, traditional pottery but then, when you get up close, it’s like a little kid jumped out from a closet and shouted BOO!

Lest Tyranny Reign, 7.5×17 inches, ceramic

He’s clearly having way too much fun.

Diego’s pottery is based on techniques that are thousands of years old. Holding his work in your hands is surprising. It feels like touching an egg. It’s lighter than it looks and, as he points out, incredibly durable. And yet, if you drop it, it will shatter.

American Diastrophism, 30 x 27.7 inches, lithograph

One of his newest pieces, Lest Tyranny Reigns, is based on the story of the great Pueblo leader Pope who held off the Spanish invasion for a hot second. And because of his bravery and cunning, he has become a folk hero, the story of which lends itself beautifully to Diego’s work which gives a nod to the comic book illustrators he loved to read since childhood and still collects to this day.

Comic books, American films and pop art also influence his print work, which he creates with Black Rock Press in New Mexico. He loves appropriating cultures–after all, he’s seen plenty of people appropriate his culture. But it’s such a wonderful way to start a conversation: draw people in with something that is known and comfortable, then add the twist, the thing that makes you stop and think and ask questions.

To learn more about Diego, visit his gallery, Shiprock and check out our site, PACE Arts.

Cara Romero, Realizing Her Vision

This was a refreshing interview on so many levels. First, Cara is such an open person, so willing to talk about herself as she relates to the work in a very personal way.

Water Memories, photograph, 40×40 inches

I left this interview feeling incredibly inspired.

One of the things that stays with me–that I think of almost every day–is how she decided to invest in herself and her career. She’d been making photographs and exploring themes of her culture and, at the same time, being a mom and wife and all the other myriad roles women artists take on. Then is occurred to her: she needed to take some of her savings and invest in her career. The result are the three photos we have in the Allegories of Transformation exhibition–and that are featured in the video interview I did with Cara.

Ufala Girls, photography, 40×40 inches

These photos exploded on the scene and made Cara a known entity. They have since been collected by major museums including the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and the American Museum of Britain.

For more information about Cara, visit her website: And, check out her work for the PACE Center.

Joe Feddersen, Bring Awareness Through Connection

Oh, Joe Feddersen. What a beautiful soul. To hear him tell the journey from his home in Omak to college in Wisconsin to teaching at Evergreen College in Washington and then back home, to Omak, back to the place where he is surrounded by his family and friends, members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, is so centering. Home is where you find your people, the ones who know your stories and share them.

Freeway with HOV Lanes, 6.75×6.5 inches, waxed linen

Over the course of his career, Joe has eloquently kept his vision and his voice to the fore. And, equally as important, he has recognized that when things become easy or feel repetitive, he has, without regret, moved on to explore new and different ideas. Take for example, his weaving. They are all based on traditional weaving techniques and patterned work of his ancestors but with a twist. The traditional idea of patterning was based on things like crops and animal shapes. Joe takes that concept and bases his work on the patterns he sees every day: HOV lanes and parking lots.

In our conversation, we talked mostly about the weaving and his work bringing his Native American community together–young and old–to create a book on print work. But, if you have the time, check out some of Joe’s other works at Froelick Gallery. And to read more about Joe, go to his page on our PACE Center site.

Norman Akers, Looking to the Future

I took title for the PACE Center exhibit, Allegories of Transformation, from an essay Norman Akers wrote. The full quote is:

The use of narrative in my work acts as a continuation of the Native American storytelling tradition. Ancestral tribal stories and sayings explained the world in which we lived. New and emerging stories serve as allegories of transformation in an ever-changing world.

Alien Conquest, 20.5×15 inches, lithograph

Norman is Osage and teaches at University of Kansas. Throughout our conversation, two clear ideas remained ever-present: where he finds himself in the land is directly influenced by his deep sense of home. And, as an Osage, he is constantly looking to the future; the idea of looking back in time and painting that version of reality is an anathema to Norman.

Dark Reign, 18.75×15 inches, lithograph

It was interesting to dig into this idea of home, especially with someone like Norman whose ancestors have had a very different experience with the concept, from being migratory to being removed from their lands. For Norman, home is a vast place that reaches from the prairie lands his ancestors roamed and hunted t, the small town he grew up in. His sense of home, then, is not necessarily attached to specific objects–a mailbox, an easy chair, pots and pans in a kitchen, but is instead a more conceptual idea with a broader reach.

Uneasy Welcome, 20.75×16.5 inches, lithograph

And, being forward facing, there is an optimism Norman brings to his work. He was, early on, a plein air painter. He still considers himself to be a painter of landscapes but these landscapes are the interior spaces in his mind, his heart and his soul. The paintings and print work he does now sheds light on his travels and speaks to his ancestors, but is decidedly contemporary in every way possible from subject matter to technique. His work truly embodies the notion of allegories and how important they are to tell stories and help society through vital and ongoing transformations.

To learn more about the Allegories of Transformation exhibition, please go to PACE Center.

Neal Ambrose-Smith, Seeing Through the Noise

The Weight of Thought, 30×22 inches, Xerox tone ink on paper

I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation with Neal Ambrose-Smith, in advance of the Allegories of Transformation exhibit at the PACE Center. We had never met–never even talked to each other, but in this time of COVID, we just jumped in. We had set a time to talk for an hour, if need be. Two hours later, we were still talking and laughing and having a great time.

Do Fish Dream? 30×22 inches. graphite, India ink, house paint

The amazing things I learned about Neal that didn’t make it on the video are that he is keeping the archive of all his mother, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s work. The two of them often critic each other’s work and freely admit that they borrow ideas, an exchange that has made for a dynamic explosion of work, thoughts and ideas.

The other incredible aspect to Neal’s life and work is his commit to youth and teaching at the Institute of American Indian Art. I was able to leave in part of that conversation–incredible, truly, the issues he and his team deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Visit the Allegories of Transformation exhibit online at The PACE Center.

Linley Logan: The Art of Transformation

When curating Allegories of Transformation for the PACE Center, I was amazed and delighted by Linley Logan’s work for the show. His ingenious way of seeing the world around us and presenting alternative ways of thinking about life and…the detritus surrounding us.

Linley’s life and art revolve around family, culture and heritage. In his art, he freely uses everything and anything he can get his hands on–a skill he learned out of the necessity to complete projects in college on a meager budget. The beauty in his work lies in the humous way he uses new and discarded materials to form a bridge between his culture and heritage to the modern world.

About Linley Logan

Multidisciplinary artist, curator and author, Linley Logan grew up in the Tonawanda Seneca Nation. He attended the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico where he earned an AFA in Two Dimensional Arts and another AFA in Three Dimensional Arts and engaged museum studies. He went on to study ceramics at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle Main, then earned a degree in Industrial Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology for a BFA.

He has curated and co-curated contemporary Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy) art exhibits, including “Iroquois Art in the Age of Casino’s,” Iroquois Indian Museum. He authored articles and presented cultural programing for the Smithsonian Institution. He has been a participating artist in International Indigenous Visual Artists’ Gatherings in Hawaii and New Zealand. He believes strongly in serving on local and regional arts boards and working with youth to maintain traditional language studies. His own work is rooted in the traditional art forms—printmaking, painting, carving, silver jewelry, pottery and found art creations—but is conveyed through contemporary artistic expression.

His writing extends to traditional dance and indigenous internet implications. “Native American Dance, Ceremonies and Social Dance Traditions,” was published by the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, and “Dancing the Cycles of Life” published by the Festival of American Folklife was part of the social dance in the America’s program for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Studies, Smithsonian Institution.

Anna Hoover, a Multi-faceted Life

What a thrill to meet such a talented artist approaching social and environmental issues facing her community in Alaska with poignant work and new mediums. I did know of Anna’s work before curating Allegories of Transformation. Since her thesis project that brought Indigenous artists together in an exhibition featuring imagery that was used to create t-shirt designs creating awareness around the Pebble Mining project that would severely impact the salmon industry and the environment.

Anna is the daughter of John Hoover, the renown sculptor who passed away in 2011. She does not, however, lean on her father’s fame but has instead carved her own path. In a way, this has given her a certain freedom to explore different topics such as her outrage to mining operations threatening the pristine lands she knows and loves, and the ever present fact of suicide among Alaskan natives and the toll is takes on families. Following this path has lead her into film making, printmaking, script writing, and administration of a non-profit group that brings art into underserved communities in Alaska.

Mapping Qayaq, 8 x 20 inches, serigraph

About Anna Hoover

Oral history is integral to our being; it molds our foundation of history, genealogy, utilitarian skills, and ongoing life lessons. Through storytelling, we learn how to behave and interpret good reasons to continue sustainable life-practices. Narrative forms of knowledge entertain us in ways that help us to laugh, cry, heal and grow. Demonstration and interactive learning are a function of storytelling and knowledge sharing. For millennia, these deep pools of empowering knowledge have solely been documented through the reciting of collective memories by orators; expressed live and in person.

Word from Our Mother, 18 x 12 inches, Photocorrect

The harsh reality is that many of these important people work within imposed economies that relegate traditional cultural roles to the wayside. In turn, I observe within my region of the Alaska Peninsula and the eastern Aleutian Islands, many of our stories and age-old memories are being forgotten, to only exist within the silent cosmos. With another generation of elders passing away, we are losing our tangible connection to ancient ways and it is a crucial time to record these respected people in video and audio recordings.

Cinematic storytelling that inspires our young people and reminds them how amazing their relatives are imparts a sense of potentiality; it shows us ways these instructions on balanced and healthy ways of living can be celebrated and nurtured into the future. I am passionate about bringing Alaskan perspectives and stories to the mainstream and am enjoying finding my voice in this important conversation that shapes our international culture.

Check out more of Anna’s work on her website, And, check out my interview with Anna here.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Untitled, 24 x 15.5 inches, monotype
Untitled, 24 x 15.5 inches, monotype
Untitled, 24 x 15.5 inches, monotype
Untitled, 24 x 15.5 inches, monotype

Pinning down Jaune Quick-to-See Smith for an hour is no easy feat. At 80, Smith is actively making art that responds to social, environmental, and political issues–subject matter that is not short on these days–she is lecturing, teaching and curating, connecting her fellow Indigenous artist with each other to find opportunities. And, if all that wasn’t enough, she’s raising her young granddaughters.

For this interview, her son, a well-respected artist in his own right, as well as a professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Neal Ambrose Smith, orchestrated our call on Zoom. While most interviews have been edited down to seven to eight minutes, I decided to let this one ride. Partly because talking to Smith is a bit like getting an audience with the Oracle, but also because one hour turned into nearly three; every bit of which was full of her forthright and learned insights into her work and the Native American way of life.

And, I loved the crazy thing that happened as we were starting the conversation–talk about an icebreaker. Something popped in front of her camera and blurred her image then, just as quickly, darted away. Her reaction to that was priceless and a great way to kick things off.

To download a copy of the article I wrote on Smith for Western Art & Architecture, CLICK here. Also, to read my full interview with Jaune, CLICK here.

And so, without further ado, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.