February 24, 2020

Apsáalooke Women and Warriors

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society

Elias Not Afraid, beaded bag, 2019. Deer hide, elk ivory teeth, glass beads, Italian leather, Field Museum. Photo: John Weinstein.

From March 12 until August 21, the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society presents Apsáalooke Women and Warriors, the second chapter of a three-part curatorial project jointly organized by the Field Museum and the Neubauer Collegium in collaboration with the Apsáalooke community. Composed of a large-scale exhibition at the Field Museum (the first such undertaking at the Field curated by a Native American scholar in close collaboration with her community), a more intimately scaled and thematically focused exhibit at the Neubauer Collegium, and a major new publication, this ambitious and complex project highlights the arts and culture of the Apsáalooke people, also known as the Crow.

Partly embedded in a long-term research project nurtured by the Neubauer Collegium, this exhibition comes at a time when museums across the globe are faced with the challenge of rethinking the place of Indigenous cultures in their collecting and exhibiting policies – a process that has been accelerated by a matching increase in cultural awareness among these peoples’ newly empowered creative vanguards. A key component of these corrective and restorative processes has been the drive to celebrate living Indigenous culture as contemporary culture. One of the main aims of Apsáalooke Women and Warriors, accordingly, is to propose a new balance in thinking history alongside contemporary life. Both exhibition sites feature historical materials alongside contemporary artworks and craft objects, from historic battle shields to beadwork, high-end fashion design to painting, with a specific focus on the powerful roles played by women and warriors in the complex society of the Apsáalooke Nation, a living people of the Northern Plains. The exhibition’s titular women will be at the center, furthermore, of the Neubauer Collegium exhibit.

Two traditional tipis installed outside the Neubauer Collegium—one on the terrace, another on the east lawn—signal the research center's transformation into a gathering place for celebrating Apsáalooke beliefs and traditions. The gallery itself is reimagined as a tipi’s sheltering interior, its intimate domestic space doubling as an immersive installation conceived by Apsáalooke curator and scholar Nina Sanders. Inside this womb-like space, visitors encounter historical objects including a sacred war shield, a war shirt, and horse regalia; new works by Del Curfman, Allen Knows His Gun, Ben Pease, and Kevin Red Star; beadwork by Birdie Real Bird, Karis Jackson, and Elias Not Afraid; and textiles designed by Bethany Yellowtail. The exhibition is envisaged as a social space: mats, pillows, rugs, and the like will not merely re-create the sense of an active meeting place but will put the space to work. Among the materials offered for perusal in this living environment will be the third chapter of Apsáalooke Women and Warriors: the eponymous accompanying catalogue, published by the Neubauer Collegium and distributed by the University of Chicago Press. All proceeds from the sale of the book will support Little Big Horn College, a public tribal community college in Crow Agency, Montana.

Apsáalooke Women and Warriors is curated by Nina Sanders in collaboration with Neubauer Collegium curator Dieter Roelstraete.

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