Soul Center for the Arts (within Castello D’Alberts Museum of World Cultures)
Corso Dogali 18, 16136 Genova
Soul Center for the Arts is an art gallery dedicated to exhibiting Indigenous contemporary works and life through workshops and exhibitions. Soul Center for the Arts will be occupying the temporary exhibition gallery and the summer reading room within Castello D’Albertis pleased to present its inaugural exhibitions in Italy, entitled “Landscaped from Within” and “Feeling Everything All At Once.”
LANDSCAPES FROM WITHIN is an abstract observation of how terrain and tradition engulf the identity of its people while viewed through the lens of Indigeneity, sovereignty, and contemporary life on Turtle Island. Turtle Island is a territory now better known as North America and is claimed to have been most frequented by Christopher Columbus.
Positioned within the historic Genovese Castello D’Albertis, “Landscapes from Within” is a push towards to the ever-present goal of decolonization within artistic institutions and actualize this train of thought within the individual frame of mind. Although Columbus never did settle or conquer Turtle Island, his intergenerational influence of colonial genocide plagued the Native people of this land for centuries, and one can still feel its racially charged remnants.
Illustrated by Jaque Fragua and Antoinette Thompson through acrylic works on canvas and photographs, Landscapes from Within is a catastrophic Indigenous wonderland and accurate depiction of modern Native American life.
JAQUE FRAGUA (Jemez Pueblo) works to destroy the perceptions of being a Pan-Native American. Fragua presents the perfect example of how Native artists can subvert a label to stimulate examination of the current status quo, collective inhibitions, and self. Fragua’s works are a constant outcry for belonging yet is also bold enough to stand alone.
“Untitled (Sacred)”, represents the strength of Native American landscape and community. It serves as a constant reminder that Indigenous territory still connects to the land and is not a question of the past. Through the dialogue and action of painting, the mission is to utilize experiences as tools to deconstruct the myths of art, tradition, Native Americans, and cultural appropriation, so as to re-calibrate the landscape of mainstream discourse within American boundaries, reservations, and beyond.
“Art has always been a struggle for me. I relate this struggle to the angst of my identity. My identity is not just rooted in Native American culture. Instead, I find myself an amalgam of DNAs, historical trauma, boarding schools, civil rights, Alcatraz, American dreams, urbanization, reservation tragedy, creative triumph, war stories, fist fights, jail time, racial profiling, mixed opinions, hiphop, punk, rock & roll, jazz, graffiti, tattoos, dark brown skin, long black hair, spiritual wisdom, traditional knowledge, direct action, and painting.”
ANTOINETTE THOMPSON (Navajo) foregoes the traditional Native American imagery for her own Abstract Expressionism by painting what she feels opposed to painting what she sees or is expected to paint. Thompson’s Untitled Landscape No. 2 depicts a ensemble of arrowheads facing upwards on the Navajo reservation terrain. In this piece, Thompson illustrates the emotion she feels knowing that her ancestors were forced off their land and beaten for speaking their language. This piece of a reminder for Thompson of the resilience of her people.
DIGITAL NATIVES is an exploration that helps the young student artists to conceptualize how their cultures and heritages intersect within the framework of a number of issues pertaining to the access and deployment of digital tools, as well as minority representation in the popular imagination. The understanding of this phenomenon was actualized through collaborative art projects realized through online and in person exchange. The title and overall theme of Delaney’s collection is Feeling Everything At Once.
Keshena’s “Small Worlds” piece gives reverence to Indigenous futurism and mythology. The symbolism behind the concept of “worlds” has deep rooted meanings in Native American cultures which vary from Tribe to Tribe. Every Native American tribe has their own creation story which is mostly constructed according to mythological, cosmological, and eschatological beliefs and traditions of earlier Mesoamerican cultures. According to modern stories, civilization as we know it is currently in its fifth phase or world. The central theme of the myth holds that there were four other cycles of creation and destruction that preceded the Fifth World.
According to Keshena, the world is obsessed with Dead Indians. The concept of the Dead Indian, as defined by Thomas King, is the fetishized ideal of a docile, noble, and most importantly, extinct Indian. This fantasy is advertised in the images of Catlin and Curtis. In shooting the disappearing Indian, Curtis produces trophies of America’s supremacy. As a result, Indigenous voice is rendered as irrelevant noise of a remote past. This perspective is rarely challenged in art made by the dominant culture.
Keshena believes that art institutions prefer to showcase the more palatable traditional crafts, however, they allow space for Indigenous people to take agency in narratives of the past and present. That is to say, it is made clear that Indigenous art is only to borrow; not own space within contemporary art institutions. If Indigenous artists are shown, it is among artifacts of ‘American antiquity.’ Such effort serves two purposes: first, it maintains a partition between Indigenous art and ‘authentic’ contemporary art. Second, it comforts the viewer against a critique of whiteness. In her second year of university, Keshena’s work pushes the boundaries and aesthetics of what contemporary Indigenous art can look like and forces the observer to understand the Indigenous community and humanity.
“Solution to the representation of contemporary Indigenous art may not be found in traditional art space. The established venues have foundations in elitism and I believe the future of Indigenous art is dependent on reconstructing ‘the museum’ on accessible digital platforms.”
The exhibition themes will be explored through the utilization of Totem Talks. Totem Talks is a contemporary interactive learning concept that will make the exhibition more introspective and personal for visitors of all ages. Totem Talks will act as a mini-project series for each exhibition of the partnership. Schools or large groups of visitors will be asked to document their answers, feelings, and emotions onto the “totems” according to the question that is presented on the specific totem, such as “What does it mean to be indigenous?” or “What does sacred mean to you”?
Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti di Genova students interact with “totem talks” during an interactive workshop before the opening of the exhibition whereas other students of the Dept of Modern Languages and Cultures of the University of Genoa have been invited to answer the questions raised by the artists and their opinions will be incorporated in the exhibition. Their participation also includes activities of translation and language interpretation.
Support for this exhibition was provided by Blu Logistics, The Jaques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, The Hancock Family Trust, and The Endeavor Foundation. Operational support was also provided by U.S. Consular Agency of Genova and the Commune di Genova, and Castello D’Albertis.