Celebrate the BMA's 110th anniversary at the spectacular BMA Ball and After Party on Saturday, November 23, 2024.
Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache). My Soul Remainer. 2017. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from the Pearlstone Family Fund and partial gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache). My Soul Remainer. 2017. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from the Pearlstone Family Fund and partial gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

BALTIMORE, MD (June 25, 2024)—On July 17, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) will present Laura Ortman: Wood that Sings, a focus exhibition that explores Apache musicality by displaying the film My Soul Remainer (2019) by Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache) alongside an early 20th-century Apache tsíí’ edo’a’tl (fiddle) from the BMA’s collection made by Amos Gustina (Western Apache). Crafted from the hollow stalk of an agave plant and played with the wide end against the musician’s chest, its Apache name translates to “the wood that sings.”

Apache oral traditions trace the origins of stringed musical instruments to the beginning of the earth, and music has played a central role in cultural traditions ever since. In My Soul Remainer, Ortman plays her violin throughout the southwestern landscape of the United States: in a forest clearing, on a mountainside, and within a rocky stream. Her collaborator Jock Soto (Diné) assumes different reverential postures while Ortman’s original score—which samples a piece by German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)—bleeds into an atmospheric and ethereal composition. By building upon and ultimately departing from the overwhelmingly white and male history of Western classical music composing, Ortman insists upon her own Native autonomy. Laura Ortman: Wood that Sings will be on view through January 5, 2025.

“Laura Ortman poignantly reflects on the enduring thread of cultural continuity, where music emerges not just as a form of expression but as a lifeline connecting past, present, and future within Indigenous communities,” said co-curators Dare Turner (Yurok Tribe) and Leila Grothe. “In honoring the profound role of music in sustaining cultural lifeways, Ortman’s work speaks volumes to the power of art as a vessel for preservation, celebration, and the perpetuation of heritage for generations to come.”

Ortman’s work also continues the legacies of Apache musicians like Gustina, who created a traditional tsíí’ edo’a’tl. For decades, non-Native anthropologists argued that Apache fiddles copied European violins, despite their distinct appearance and structure. Oral histories passed down by Apache Elders indicate the instruments predate the introduction of European violins, rebuking anthropologists’ claims. Native ingenuity and self-sufficiency have long predated colonial influence, and will endure long into the future.

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 Indigenous 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. The project was led by Dare Turner (Yurok Tribe), Curator of Indigenous Art at the Brooklyn Museum and former BMA Assistant Curator of Indigenous Art of the Americas; Leila Grothe, BMA Associate Curator of Contemporary Art; and Elise Boulanger (Citizen of the Osage Nation), BMA Curatorial Research Assistant, in consultation with a 10-member Community Advisory Panel that includes artists, scholars, designers, and community leaders.

Laura Ortman

Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache) (born 1973, Whiteriver, Arizona) is a soloist musician, composer, and vibrant collaborator who creates across multiple platforms, including recorded albums, live performances, and filmic and artistic soundtracks. She has collaborated with artists such as Tony Conrad, Jock Soto, Raven Chacon, Nanobah Becker, Okkyung Lee, Martin Bisi, Jeffrey Gibson, Caroline Monnet, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Martha Colburn, and New Red Order, as well as part of the trio In Defense of Memory. As a musician, Ortman is versed in Apache violin, piano, electric guitar, keyboards, and amplified violin, and often sings through a megaphone. She is also a producer of capacious field recordings. Ortman has performed at The Guggenheim Museum, the Venice Biennale, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The New Museum, imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, and The Stone in New York; the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal; The Toronto Biennial; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, among others, and was a participating artist in the 2019 Whitney Biennial. In 2008, She founded the Coast Orchestra, an all-Native American orchestral ensemble that performed a live soundtrack to Edward Curtis’s film In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914), the first silent feature film to star an all-Native cast. Ortman has received numerous fellowships, including the 2023 Institute of American Indian Arts Fellowship, 2022 Forge Project Fellowship, 2022 United States Artists Fellowship, 2022 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists, and 2020 Jerome@Camargo Residency in Cassis, France. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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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