Dyani White Hawk ((Sičaŋǧu Lakota) Carry III. 2020. Collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Museum purchase made possible by a gift from the Kemper Family Foundations, 2021.04
Dyani White Hawk ((Sičaŋǧu Lakota) Carry III. 2020. Collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Museum purchase made possible by a gift from the Kemper Family Foundations, 2021.04
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Preoccupied: Indigenizing the Museum is a major initiative focused on enhancing the presence of Native voices and works throughout the BMA 

BALTIMORE, MD (April 8, 2024)— On April 21, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) opens Dyani White Hawk: Bodies of Water, a focus exhibition that explores works from the artist’s Carry series. Of Sičáŋǧu Lakota, German, and Welsh American ancestry, White Hawk often investigates cross-cultural experiences and the complexity of understanding oneself in the context of personal and communal histories. Bodies of Water includes two existing sculptural works and one new work from her Carry series created especially for the presentation alongside historical Lakota works White Hawk selected from the BMA’s collection. Together, the featured works capture a continuity of creative and technical ingenuity among Native people. Bodies of Water will remain on view through December 1, 2024.

“Dyani White Hawk is a celebrated painter with an equally vibrant sculptural practice. Bodies of Water challenges the notion—common within Western art history—that objects of daily use are less valuable than so-called “fine art” works,” said co-curators Dare Turner (Yurok Tribe) and Leila Grothe. “By placing her sculpture in a highly visible rotunda space, we offer an opportunity to view the meticulous adornment of these dimensional works in the round and witness the harmony of functional objects.”

The Carry pieces in the exhibition are composed of copper buckets and ladles adorned with glass beads and extravagantly long fringe whose draping emulates arboreal tree roots and waterways. Buckets used as vessels to carry and distribute water, and copper, a material long used by Indigenous people to purify water, both speak to the importance of water as life sustaining medicine as well as relationships between human and non-human life and the land. White Hawk’s interpretations incorporate traditional designs and symbols that emerge in part from her Native community’s connection to the environment. White Hawk’s work honors Indigenous practices of abstraction, highlighting under-valued cultural and art historical through lines that further elevate Native practices within the artistic pantheon. White Hawk’s Carry series also examines different cultural conversations around craft and functional objects.

Bodies of Water also includes several Lakota works from the BMA’s collection, including a pair of moccasins from the 1920s-30s and two tobacco bags (c. 1900). These works capture the intricacy of Native artistry and technique across generations, showcasing beadworking styles that allowed for the creation of complex, brightly colored patterns. In the context of Bodies of Water, the historic works are considered through the lens of aesthetic and formal prowess rather than anthropological perspectives as is often the norm in Western museums. The works also establish an artistic continuity between White Hawk’s practice and those of others from her community that came before her.

The exhibition is part of the BMA’s Preoccupied: Indigenizing the Museum initiative that significantly increases the presence of Native voices, experiences, and works across the museum. Unfolding over the course of 10 months, Preoccupied includes nine solo and thematic exhibitions, interpretative interventions across the museum’s collection galleries, the development of a publication guided by Native methodologies, and public programs. It represents an exceptionally expansive museum presentation of Native artists and thinkers, with nearly 100 individuals contributing to and represented across the initiative.

About Dyani White Hawk

Dyani White Hawk (Sičáŋǧu Lakota; b. 1976) is a multidisciplinary visual artist, whose practice embraces painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and video. Her work has been featured in a wide range of solo and group exhibitions at galleries and museums across the U.S. She is the recipient of the 2024 Creative Capital grant, 2023 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and 2021 Anonymous Was a Woman Award, among numerous other awards, residencies, and fellowships. Her work is held in such major public collections as the Guggenheim Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Walker Art Center, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Denver Art Museum, and Minneapolis Institute of Art. White Hawk earned an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2011) and BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico (2008). She works in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

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