Contemporary Native American Art in the Gallagher Law Library

The Gallagher Law Library displays more than 20 items of contemporary Native American art.

Most of the works of art on display are part of a collection assembled by artist John Feodorov for the Washington State Arts Commission/University of Washington Public Art Commission. With the encouragement of representatives of the UW School of Law, Mr. Feodorov was given the task of building a collection that honors the longstanding commitment the UW School of Law has made to the Native American community. Mr. Feodorov is a respected local artist and a member of the Navajo Nation.

In proposing the collection he wrote: "For native peoples, cultural survival and tribal sovereignty are as much issues today as they were two hundred years ago. Land rights, whaling, fishing rights, mineral rights, religious freedom, identity, sovereignty, and racism are all continuing elements in the current relationship between Native Americans and federal and state governments. The art I have chosen for the UW School of Law provides opportunities for dialogue and brings insight into the Native American/United States relationship.”  

The list below identifies the artists, their tribal affiliations, the titles of their works, year of creation, and format. The links on the artists' names direct readers to additional information about the artists and the links from the artwork titles link to artists' comments. See the Art Map (PDF) for locations of artwork in the Gallagher Law Library.

John Feodorov Navajo Nation Greetings From Navajo Land (1997) mixed media on paper
The Land is Watching (1997) mixed media on paper
Meat Vision (2000) mixed media on paper
Happy Hunting Ground (1997) mixed media on paper
Coyote Goes a Hunting (1997) mixed media on paper
Skinwalker (2000) mixed media on paper
Tanis S’eiltin Tlingit Resisting Distillation (2002) woodcut
Blood Secrets (2001) mixed media
A Mother’s Gift (2002) woodcut
Shelly Niro Bay of Quinte Mohawk The Essential Sensuality of Ceremony (2001) gelatin silver prints (photographs) with beaded objects and artist-made frames
Gail Tremblay Onandaga and Micmac Fish Traps (2002-2003) white and red willow branches
Putting a Lid on Wild America (2002-2003) woven 35mm film stock
There’s Picture Perfect and Then There’s the Red Leader  (2002-2003) woven 35 mm film stock
James Luna Luiseño and Deseño Petroglyphs in Motion (Parts A and B) (2001) C-prints (photographs)
Hot Medicine Bag  (2001) mixed media
High Tech Peace Pipe (2001) mixed media
Samuella Samaniego Tlingit Celebration (2000) selenium-toned gelatin silver prints (photographs)
Grass in Fog (2001) selenium-toned gelatin silver prints (photographs)
First Run (2002) selenium-toned gelatin silver prints (photographs)
Couple (2002) selenium-toned gelatin silver prints (photographs)
G. Peter Jemison Seneca Ongwehonwehkaa (1992-1993) copigraphic collage on paper
An International Lie  (1987) mixed media on found paper bags
Real Indian Land Claims (2002) mixed media on found paper bags
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith Flathead Salish (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation of Montana War is Heck 3 (2002) monoprint
Rescue (2002) acrylic on canvas
Humor (1996) lithograph
Wisdom (1996) lithograph

About the Artists

John Feodorov was recently featured in the PBS television series, “Art for the 21st Century” as well as in the companion book published by Harry N. Abrams. His work has been exhibited throughout the country and appears in various collections in the United States and Europe. He has received numerous awards for his artwork and served as Arts Commissioner for the City of Seattle from 2000-2002.

Artist's comments on:

  • Greetings from Navajo Land: “Having spent summers on my grandparents land on the Navajo reservation, I remember seeing the landscape become increasingly polluted. It was becoming a land carved by roads, a sky scarred by jets and power lines, populated by people struggling with poverty, alcoholism, and the the preservation of their cultural identity. I wanted to portray this aspect of Indian life ignored by the tourist industry.”
  • The Land Is Watching: “I feel like the land is watching us . . . [l]ets hope the Earth doesn’t hold grudges.”
  • Meat Vision: “I eat meat. I’m sorry. A Navajo without meat in his mouth is starving. I remember a cousin who won the title of ’Miss Navajo’ based partly on her sheep butchering skills. If only that was a category in the Miss America pageant, I am sure she would have at least been a finalist.”
  • Happy Hunting Ground: “As a child, I remember being embarrassed every time I saw Indians portrayed in cartoons and movies. For this drawing, I wanted to utilize several stereotypical images I had collected of Indians with bows and arrows. As an agnostic, I don’t know if there actually is a ‘Happy Hunting Ground.’”
  • Coyote Goes a Hunting: “In many Native American mythologies, the character of coyote is devious, foolish, and often gets his comeuppance in the end. I remember one of my cousins shooting at one that was surveying our sheep herd. Fortunately, for that coyote, she was a lousy shot.”
  • Skinwalker: “A skinwalker is a Navajo witch who has the ability to change into animal forms. My cousin swears that while following coyote tracks they became human footprints. Like a wild animal that appears around the perimeter of a new housing development, this skinwalker has adapted to the new encroaching urban landscape.”

Peter Jemison writes “I am a member of the Heron Clan of the Seneca Nation of Indians. My home community is the Cattaraugus Reservation located 35 miles south of Buffalo, New York. I follow our traditional way of life and am very active in the Newtown Longhouse. I've been the Historic Site Manager for Ganondagan, the site of a seventeenth century Seneca town since 1985. ” [Source: artist’s statement]

Artist's comments on:

  • Ongwekonwehkaa: “Ongwekonwehkaa means "our Indian way of life" which includes traditional teachings, language, law, songs, ceremonies, art, craft, medicinal knowledge, and much more. It is an autobiographical piece with my family member’s pictures. It reads both horizontally and vertically as we direct thanksgiving towards the Creator's world beginning with the well being of the people. It then moves to our mother the earth and the numerous gifts she provides.”
  • An International Lie and Real Indian Land Claims: “An International Lie is about Oliver North. That situation troubled me because he was actively supplying arms so that Indians could kill other Indians. He was encouraging drug sales and using those profits to get money to destabilize Iran. The US acted as if it’s interests (meaning oil) come first and human rights for Indian people are far down the list. In the end, the piece is about Human Rights and that our neighbors to the south are Ongwehonweh (Real Human Beings) and that genocide is wrong.
    Real Indian Land Claims relates to land claims and addresses threats from local people who hate Indians. There were a series of death threats made if people purchased gasoline from the Oneidas. There were also signs within the Cayuga land claims area that were extremely anti-Indian. The level of hatred at times reminded me of the intimidation the Ku Klux Klan used and uses in the south.”

A resident of California's La Jolla Reservation, James Luna creates his work for 'a community of Indian tribes', and has received wide acclaim for his deconstruction of stereotypes and notions of 'Indian' identity. He began his studies in painting, but it was when he discovered performance that his practice took shape. Luna's work has conceptual overtones, and he strives for minimal means in his multi-media and video installations. [Source: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/artists/luna.html]

James Feodorov's comments on:

  • Petroglyphs in Motion: “James Luna’s art shakes-up the public’s conception of what an American Indian is. ‘I have had people come to my performances thinking that I am going to do a nice tom-tom dance … as I unload, they realize this isn't what they came to hear, but they have every right to leave or to laugh.’ The images in the eight photographs were generated from a performance piece also entitled Petroglyphs In Motion.”
  • Hot Medicine Bag and High Tech Peace Pipe: “James Luna uses anything he can to get his point across: condoms, tennis rackets and cellular phones are all fuel for his mission. In Notes on My Art Work #674, Luna writes, "I am not a healer, but can be considered a clown.’”

Teacher, photographer, painter, and filmmaker Shelley Niro trained in Durham College's Graphics Program in Oshawa, Ontario (1978) and at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. Frequently using strategies of masquerade, parody and appropriation, Niro's work is significant for its subversion and recreation of new identities and images in counterpoint to the long and damaging history of white representation of Native peoples. [Source: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/artists/niro_shelley.html]

Artist's comment on The Essential Sensuality of Ceremony: “This is my interpretation of The Great Law, the oral history of the Iroquois People, which normally takes over 10 days to recite. Essentially, it is a lesson of survival. Be good to yourself, be kind to others and let your senses guide you in all of your actions. Life goes on with form, function and beauty.”

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith's artwork is exhibited internationally in prestigious art museums and galleries. Her work is described as expressing the traditionally abstract art identified with Native America, showing the merging of the animate with the landscape, and revealing Smith's interest in modern art. As an ardent supporter of Native American scholarship and education, Smith has donated her time and talent by offering professional and educational opportunity to aspiring artists, and the experience of the beauty of her world to the general public. [Source: www.nativepubs.com/nativepubs]

Artist's comments on:

  • War Is Heck 3: “The warhorse depicts a background of buffalo and cattle figures being led to slaughter, which resembles humans during wartime. This picture will never be outdated because humans are warmongers. We still behave like Stone Age people, instead of negotiating like civilized people, we have simply replaced rocks with nuclear bombs.”
  • Rescue: “The Lone Ranger is a stand-in for the patriarchal U.S. government while Tonto represents the Indian tribes who are treated like children. Since the 1960's, Indian law has done a lot to rescue the tribes and encourage self-determination.”
  • Humor: “To an outsider, Indian humor seems like a self-deprecating, bleak humor about unfunny predicaments. It takes what we know and turns it over, around and upside-down often getting at underlying truth. Indian humor has been an important part of survival in the worst of times.”
  • Wisdom: “In Indian country, a person is not considered wise just by going to college. We see elders, sometimes illiterate, as being extraordinarily wise because they combine their life experience with cultural study and teaching plus much practiced analytical skills. We also believe that intelligence involves the heart with the head.”

Samuella Samaniego is both a fine art and assignment photographer. Her work has been widely exhibited throughout North America. She has been a featured photographer in “A Millennium Reflection”, guest lecturer for University of Washington press, and serves on the advisory board for the photography program at the University of Washington.

Artist's comments on:

  • Celebration: “These images are from an event which takes place on alternate years in Alaska. It is simply called “Celebration.” Songs and dances are performed by clans, in their native languages, in great hope that Native heritage is sustained and remembered.”
  • Grass in Fog, First Run, and Couple: “Grass In Fog is intimate and still, while First Run is expansive and shows nature’s forceful desire of migration. Couple is a commentary on relationships, what they reflect and how they present [themselves].”

Tanis S'eiltin is an Associate Professor of Art at Fairhaven College at Western Washington University in Bellingham WA. “Luk nax adi is the Tlingit name of my sub-clan under the Raven moeity and translates as Coho.” [Source: artist’s statement]

Artist's comments on:

  • Resisting Distillation: ”With the enactment of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA), Native Alaskans were required to prove the possession of 1/4 aboriginal blood, a standard originally set by the Daws Act of 1887. Members of the Tlingit tribe now acknowledge one another as corporate shareholders as well as members of clans and moieties. The ramifications of this act serve as a catalyst for questions concerning the social and cultural structure of a people.
    This artwork represents the ability of indigenous people to retain our cultural heritage despite corporate and government standards of identification. This print contains a replica of a war helmet that was collected south of my great grandmother’s place of birth, Yakutat. The purpose of this war regalia is to defiantly overpower the vials of blood and identification standards set by ANCSA.”
  • Blood Secrets: ”My grandparents, Daisy and Jack Joseph are the impetus for this work and appear in the black and white photo that was taken in Juneau, Alaska.”

Gail Tremblay is a professor at The Evergreen State College, where she has mentored countless students in the fields of visual arts, writing, Native American and cultural studies. Her visual art has been featured in Washington in over 40 group and solo exhibits and throughout the nation in an additional 60 exhibits. [Source: artist’s statement]

Artist's comments on:

  • Fish Traps: “In 1993, I made my first fish trap for my second major installation, "The Empty Fish Trap." While working on the piece, I fell in love with the form of traditionally woven fish traps. I love the shadows these traps can make against a wall when they are lit, and the way a simple object of traditional technology can be so expressive and beautiful as form. This series of traps is made in honor of the return of salmon to the rivers to feed the people.”
  • Putting a Lid on Wild America and There's Picture Perfect and Then There's the Red Leader: “I made my first film basket as a present for a colleague and have been developing the series ever since. I love the control over this material that has been a medium for stereotyping Indians, and use traditional stitches like bird mouth stitch, porcupine stitch and strawberry stitch to make comments with these baskets. Both these baskets are made of Thirty-five mm trailers for films. "Putting a Lid on Wild America" made of the trailer for the film, “Wild America”, and "There's Picture Perfect and Then There's the Red Leader" is made out of 35mm trailer for Picture Perfect and red leader.”

Thanks to Kurt Kiefer from the Campus Art Committee for providing this information. For more information about the art in this collection or other artwork on the University of Washington campus, please email campusrt@u.washington.edu.