UCROSS — Ucross recently announced the opening of its inaugural exhibition presenting artwork by winners of the newly established Ucross Fellowship for Native American Visual Artists.
“Intricate Form: Brenda Mallory + Sydney Pursel: 2018 Ucross Native American Fellows” opened Monday, and will be on view through Sept. 28. Brenda Mallory (Cherokee Nation) and Sydney Jane Brooke Campbell Maybrier Pursel (Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska) were selected as the first two recipients of the Native American Fellowship and both were in residence at Ucross in 2018.
A public reception with artist talks by Mallory and Pursel will take place June 21 from 5-7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The multidisciplinary exhibition includes works on paper, video, installation and sculpture. Major support for the exhibition and the fellowship program has been provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts and the Ucross Board of Trustees. The Wyoming Arts Council has also supported the exhibition, through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming Legislature. The Museum of Art | Fort Collins presented the exhibition earlier this year and the University of Wyoming Art Department will feature the work in its gallery in summer 2020.
“It is a great honor to present the work of Brenda and Sydney in this exciting exhibition, and to welcome them back to Ucross for the opening,” Ucross President Sharon Dynak said. “The new fellowship has great meaning for the organization, situated as we are on the High Plains with strong Native American history and presence. We thank the artists for bringing their extraordinary work to our region.”
Mallory’s work ranges from individual wall-hangings and sculptures to large-scale installations. She works with mixed media, creating multiple forms that are joined with crude hardware or mechanical devices in ways that imply tenuous connections and aberrations. She is interested in ideas of interference and disruption of long-established systems in nature and human cultures.
“I like to see repairs, mends, the evidence of struggle, and the healing act of pulling order from chaos,” Mallory said. “To me it is a metaphor for hope and resilience when I transform these materials that have been deemed worthless or broken into something that is thought-provoking and beautiful.”
Mallory grew up in Oklahoma, is a member of the Cherokee Nation and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. She received a bachelor’s in linguistics and English from University of California — Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pacific Northwest College of Art.
Pursel is an interdisciplinary artist specializing in socially engaged, activist, performance, video and new media arts. Through her art, she explores personal identity, drawing from her Indigenous and Irish Catholic roots. Some of Pursel’s projects are used to educate others about food politics, language loss, appropriation and history. Other projects among her own community focus on language acquisition, culture and art.
“Like most Americans, I am a person of mixed heritage,” Pursel said. “While I strongly identify with my Native and Irish roots, I am a combination of many backgrounds and identify as many things on multiple levels. My work investigates how colonization, religious influence, oppression, assimilation, and uneven power dynamics have contributed to a loss of cultural identity.”
Pursel is an enrolled member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. She lives in Columbia, Missouri. She received her Master of Fine Arts in expanded media at the University of Kansas and her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the University of Missouri.
The exhibition is co-curated by Andrea Hanley (Navajo), who is the membership and program manager for the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Ucross Trustee and Museum of Art | Fort Collins Executive Director Lisa Hatchadoorian. Hanley wrote the exhibition essay and was instrumental in developing the new Ucross Native American Fellowship initiative.
Initiated in 2017, the Ucross Fellowship for Native American Visual Artists supports the work of contemporary Native American artists at all stages of their professional careers. It is open to disciplines that include, but are not limited to, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, video, performance art, installation, ceramics and projects involving multiple disciplines. Two fellowships are awarded annually, one each in spring and fall. The fellowship provides up to a one-month residency at Ucross, and a stipend of $2,000. Each fellow will be featured in an exhibition at the Ucross Art Gallery during the year following their residency. The next application deadline for the fellowship is Sept. 1, 2019.
“At Ucross, we are aware of the consistency of effort required to build genuine ties to the Indigenous communities of our region,” said Bill Gilbert, Ucross trustee and distinguished professor emeritus of art and ecology and Lannan Endowed Chair, Department of Art & Art History, University of New Mexico. “It is our sincere hope that (this) exhibition and the new Native American Fellowship will serve as the positive beginning of a long-term commitment on the part of Ucross Foundation to support the work of contemporary Native American visual artists.”