Contemporary Indigenous Photography is the Focus of DAM’s Newest Exhibit

Water Memory, Cara Romero, Denver Art museum, speaking with light
Cara Romero (Chemehuevi, b. 1977), Water Memory, 2015. Inkjet print, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, © Cara Romero. All rights reserved.

The Denver Art Museum’s (DAM’s) newest exhibit, Speaking with Light, is the first major survey of Contemporary Indigenous Photography in 40 years and features more than 30 indigenous photographers exploring themes of history, loss, identity and representation. To learn about the exhibit and its importance, 303 Magazine met up with Eric Paddock, the Curator of Photography at DAM, and visited the exhibit.

Denver art museum, DAM
Photo Courtesy of Denver Art Museum‎ on Facebook

The exhibit was put together and debuted at the Amon Carter Museum Of American Art before making its way to the Mile High

“Because of hundreds of years of erasure, violence, economic suppression and stereotypes, indigenous artists are striving to take back the narrative about their art, about themselves and about their people,” Paddock explained. The exhibit is arranged into thematic areas focused on different shared experiences of indigenous people: Prologue: State to State, Survivance: An Ongoing Process, Nation and Indigenous Visualities

man on the bus, zig jackson, speaking with light, denver art museum, dam
Zig Jackson (Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara, b. 1957), Indian Man on the Bus, Mission District, San Francisco, California, 1994. Inkjet print. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, © Zig Jackson Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, North Dakota

The exhibit is about showcasing contemporary indigenous culture in the way it exists today. “This is not a history of indigenous photography, it’s all contemporary work. The oldest photographs in the exhibition are only about 40 years old, and the majority are less than ten years old,” said Paddock.

The works of art on display transcend beyond just photography, featuring video and three-dimensional pieces as well as audio companions to various pieces portrayed through a speaker above that directs the audio into a localized spot below. Immersion is a prime aspect of the exhibit with many of the pieces paired with a QR code that leads to interviews with the artists and more. 

As you leave the exhibit, there is a kiosk that displays indigenous photographs.  The volunteer-based organization is meant to elevate and showcase indigenous visual storytellers that can help provide a unique perspective of their stories and communities for the media industry.

Indigenous Photograph was established by several indigenous artists here in North America,” Paddock described. “It works as a showcase for indigenous artists from every continent.” The kiosk works as a way for attendees of the exhibit to extend their knowledge of indigenous art by giving resources to learn more after departing the exhibit.

Kiliii Yüyan , speaking with light, denver art museum, DAM
Kiliii Yüyan (Nanai/Hèzhé and Chinese-American, b. 1979), Joy Mask, IK, from the series Masks of Grief and Joy, 2018. Inkjet print. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, © Kiliii Yüyan

Whether you come to learn about indigenous culture, want to see stunning art, or just expand your horizons, Denver Art Museum’s Speaking with Light is an excellent opportunity to do all that and more. 

The exhibit runs through May 22 and is free with admission. Tickets can be purchased here, or at the front desk of the museum when you arrive.

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