A new exhibition celebrates the early work of Indigenous artist Danielle SeeWalker at the Littleton Museum – a town on ancestral land

Littleton, Colorado sits on ancestral lands used by the Ute, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, and Kiowa peoples. The city was named after it Richard Sullivan Little of New Hampshire and began as a farming town that supported the Denver area during the Gold Rush of 1859. But now a new exhibition in the city celebrates the early work of a local artist.

Denver artist Danielle SeeWalkerThe work of is distinctive. your paintings – many of them portraits with faceless subjects, many with long, twisting braids – comment on the modern life of the indigenous people who are subjected to stereotypes and colonial patriarchy.

SeeWalker experiments with materials and combines traditional and modern techniques, but she is centered own tribal heritage. SeeWalker is Lakota and a registered citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

“I really don’t want to be culturally appropriated by a tribe that I don’t belong to,” SeeWalker said. “If you think of cultural appropriation, it may be a non-native imitating or doing something that is native, but even from tribe to tribe can be culturally appropriated. And so I’m really respectful and aware. And I just stick with my Lakota patterns, colors, traditions, things that I know and feel comfortable with.”

SeeWalker’s new show titled “škhé: it is said” uses the 1,800 square meters of the temporary gallery the Littleton Museum to great effect. It is important to them to show respect for the hundreds of different indigenous tribes and their differences.

“I always say people lump Native Americans together, but it’s almost like ‘All Europeans are equal’, but no, there’s French, there’s German, you know, there’s all these different languages ​​and traditions and practices and stories, and it’s the same with different indigenous tribes.”

Eden Lane / CPR News
Danielle SeeWalker, centre, works with (from left) her friend Mniluzahe Berg and their sons Locklan and Brody on a new exhibition showcasing their work at the Littleton Museum.

For Littleton Museum Curator of Patron Engagement and Exhibits Moira CaseyShe didn’t pass up the opportunity to bring SeeWalker’s work to the city.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever featured a contemporary Indigenous artist,” Casey said. “I’ve been tracking it Danielle SeeWalker on Instagram For a while I had read a really interesting blog post about her work on the Denver Museum of Art website.”

Casey says the museum aims to offer visitors a variety of themes, media types, and artist backgrounds.

SeeWalker itself has a long history of creating in a variety of different mediums. She creates too beadwork and murals and is an accomplished writer. And she’s been working on a project documenting that Indigenous life in the 21st century since 2013. But it wasn’t until the 2020 pandemic hit that SeeWalker really started showcasing her painting.

“You know, 2020 has been a crazy year for everyone. And you know, [I] was ready and willing to break out of my bubble and just try some new things.”

SeeWalker says her approach to her work throughout her career has been to focus on storytelling.

“And so each piece is unique in that it tells a story,” SeeWalker said. “You know, for example, there’s one called ‘Unci,’ which means grandmother in Lakota. And in my culture your grandmother is really the guardian of knowledge and the person who educates you…. And that’s why grandmas are so, so important in my culture. And so I wanted to honor that reason because I was very close to my grandma.”

Danielle SeeWalker stands in front of one of her installed artworks at the Littleton Museum.

But, she says, activism and storytelling often go hand in hand. For example, through her art, she brings to light the issues of missing and murdered indigenous women, as well as culturally insensitive mascots.

“So I’m trying to reach as many different audiences as possible to educate and tell stories and create awareness through art. So it’s kind of like artivism activism.”

Curator Casey says this type of work is exactly what she wants to share with visitors to the Littleton Museum. Creating space for Indigenous artists, or BIPOC artists, to tell their own stories is important work, she says, especially when traditional American art is often told from a white perspective — and especially when Littleton is in the country of the native sits.

“So I think it’s just really important from an art historical perspective to have artists who come from those cultures, who represent their own way of life and their own culture and who excel in an artistic field,” Casey said. “Both for artivism, you know, for social change, and just for art itself, just aesthetic.”

Danielle SeeWalker’s exhibition “škhé: it is said” is on view at the Littleton Museum until October 9th.

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