The exhibit Indelible Ink: Native Women, Printmaking, Collaboration at the University of New Mexico’s Raymond Jonson Gallery is an ambitious undertaking. Nine Native printmakers with vastly different aesthetics are brought together to display work that is divergent in theme and technique. To consider it a survey show is to use my own words and not the curator’s, but I hasten to add that is not to diminish the cohesion of the theme, but rather to suggest to potential museum-goers that they will find in Indelible Ink a room filled with sampling a of some of the finest examples of contemporary printmaking created by anyone. Let’s consider three works.
Sara Siestreem’s “First Basket” is classic. This strong, two-tone lithograph conveys the tradition of giving away the first basket one makes to a revered elder to ensure continued success in the craft. This piece not only accentuates this story through the use of a monochrome palette, but its stripped-down quality adds to the notion of early work in one’s career.
Wendy Red Star’s “Rez Car 2” asks a great question. Red Star writes in her description of this piece, “I was thinking about muscle cars and asking, ‘what is our muscle car?’ Well, it’s this fucked up reservation car, sort of the total opposite of the muscle car.” It is in fact a lithograph of a fucked-up reservation car that is hard not to share affection with Red Star for. With its hood up, it floats on a blue field with a muscle of its own.
Finally, there is depth beyond this column’s capacity in Julie Buffalohead’s work “Trickster Showdown” but one striking aspect worth noting is the piece’s beautiful blue field wherein the two tricksters are rendered in white lines. It is reminiscent of the once-ubiquitous but now nearly obsolete printing technique that gave us blueprints. Intentional or not, it is a fitting nod to continuity to see this blue from printing history in a show that is all about the printing present.