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Cincinnati Art Museum exhibit highlights contemporary Indigenous glass artists

Incubators, 2016, Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo, b. 1969), high-fire clay, underglazes, acrylic paint, glass tendrils.
Courtesy of Henry R. Munoz and Kyle Ferari-Munoz
© Virgil Ortiz, Photography by Virgil Ortiz
Incubators, 2016, Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo, b. 1969), high-fire clay, underglazes, acrylic paint, glass tendrils.

Glass artwork created by Indigenous artists is on display now through early April at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Clearly Indigenous: Native Visions Reimagined in Glass comes to Cincinnati from The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It features 120 pieces from 33 artists, showcasing new takes on traditional stories, along with current issues affecting tribal nations.

"It features 29 Native American artists from the United States and Canada, as well as four artists from the Pacific Rim — from New Zealand and from Australia," explains curator Letitia Chambers, Ed.D. "Adding the Indigenous artists from other countries helped illuminate the story that American Indian artists and other Indigenous artists bring to this new medium of glass art."

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Chambers uses "new" because the glass art movement on display in the exhibit hasn't been around all that long. The Native Glass Movement began in the 1970s when, as part of a collaboration, a young glass artist named Dale Chihuly arrived in New Mexico to build a hot shop. Chihuly, of course, is one of the most popular and well-known glass artists in the world, with large-scale blown glass sculptures in museums and spaces across the globe. Chambers says Chihuly's work in New Mexico inspired generations of Indigenous artists to explore glass as a medium for art.

Preview more work featured in the exhibit in the slideshow below.

"Our mainstream culture tends to think of Indians as a part of the past, partially because of the depiction of Native Americans in movies and other media," says Chambers. "But in fact, they are very dynamic, exciting cultures, with strong artistic and aesthetic traditions. The glass art presented in Clearly Indigenous shows not only the cultural heritage of the artist, but the extremely effective use of that cultural heritage in creating contemporary fine art. The glass art created by American Indian artists is therefore both a personal expression of the artist, [and] a part of their cultural heritage."

Dan Friday (Lummi), "Haila" Ho Wan Ut Old Peter (Skokomish/Chehalis), Preston Singletary (Tlingit), Tony Jojola (Isleta Pueblo), Carol Lujan (Diné), Priscilla Cowie (Māori) and Djambawa Marawili (Aboriginal Australian) are among the artists included in the exhibition, according to the museum.

The exhibit opens Friday, Dec. 14 and runs through April 7, 2024.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.