Eiteljorg Musuem Blog

Beautiful and thought-provoking contemporary Native Art Now! exhibit will inspire

by Eiteljorg Museum staff | Nov 01, 2017


Do you want to see contemporary art that is surprising, challenging and intriguing? Such engaging artworks await you at the Eiteljorg Museum’s new exhibition Native Art Now!, which opens the weekend of Nov. 11-12.

As home to one of the nation’s best collections of contemporary Native art, the Eiteljorg will showcase some of the most visually compelling pieces it has acquired over the past two decades. Native Art Now! will be on exhibit at the Eiteljorg until Jan. 28; then it will travel to other museums around the nation.

So what exactly distinguishes contemporary Native art from other contemporary art?

“The difference between a contemporary artist and a contemporary Native artist is about 15,000 years,” explained Jennifer Complo McNutt, curator of contemporary art at the Eiteljorg. “Contemporary Native artists have knowledge about their ancestors, traditions and cultures that spans thousands of years. That changes the way you see the world.”

Rick Bartow_Fox Spirit
Native contemporary artists had not received the same recognition as other contemporary artists, Complo McNutt said, but now the contemporary Native art field is coming into its own, admired and appreciated by scholars and collectors alike.

That brings us to Indianapolis. To help support and sustain contemporary Native art, the Lilly Endowment Inc. for two decades has supported the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. Every other year since 1999, the Fellowship program has selected a new group of five Native artists and provided them grant support to further their careers and receive recognition. The Eiteljorg has purchased more than 200 contemporary works and received gifts of another 200 to add to its permanent collection. Thirty-nine significant examples are in Native Art Now! and will be on view in the museum’s special exhibition gallery.

Dynamic and vibrant, the exhibit depicts the broad spectrum of Native art. You’ll see installations, paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, glass, and textile art by Indigenous artists from across the U.S. and Canada, such as Rick Bartow, Jim Denomie, Harry Fonseca, Nicholas Galanin, Meryl McMaster, Holly Wilson and others. Many pieces speak to injustices against Native peoples and the resilience of Native cultures. Others encompass innovative styles and mediums, and are open to interpretation.

And what would a Native art show be without Indian humor? You will experience that, too.

Holly Wilson_Enough
The traveling exhibit is one part of the Native Art Now! project. The weekend of Nov. 11-12, the Eiteljorg will host a celebration and convening of leading Native artists and scholars. It will include a facilitated dialogue, moderated by a nationally known art and social justice expert, Betsy Theobald Richards, to consider the past, present and future of contemporary Native art, as well as the future of the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship.

The Eiteljorg and WFYI also collaborated on a one-hour documentary that presents personal perspectives on Native contemporary art.  It is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Thursday Dec. 14 on WFYI-TV 20.1.

The museum has produced a scholarly companion book for Native Art Now! that examines Native expression in contemporary art since 1992.

When seeing Native Art Now!, don’t miss two other exhibits of contemporary Native art now on view at the Eiteljorg: In Their Honor, in the Hurt and Harvey galleries, and The Geometry of Expression, in the Myrta Pulliam Photography Gallery.



Artists and scholars will convene for a dialogue led by Betsy Theobald Richards. The morning and afternoon events and lunch together are $30 per person or $15 for students.
10 a.m. to noon: Facilitated discussion
Noon to 1 p.m.: Buffet lunch
1–3 p.m.: Preview of clips from the Native Art Now! documentary followed by roundtable discussions.
5–9 p.m.: Native Art Now! exhibit opening celebration. This evening event is $50 for members and $60 for nonmembers.

10:30 a.m. to noon: Fellowship artists convening led by Betsy Theobald Richards. The Eiteljorg Fellows will deliberate on the Fellowship to help forge its future. This event is included with general admission and the public is invited to attend, but please register.
To register to attend any of the events, contact Mary Whistler at 317.275.1316 or by Nov. 3 or log onto


Image Captions:

James Lavadour (Walla Walla, born 1951)
Naming Tanager, 2001
Oil on wood
Museum Purchase: Eiteljorg Fellowship. Acquisition in honor of Bonnie Reilly for her long service to the museum’s Collections Council.

Rick Bartow (Wiyot, 1946—2016)
Fox Spirit, 2000
Mixed media
Gift: Courtesy of Penny Ogle Weldon in memory of Kenneth L. Ogle, Jr.

Holly Wilson (Delaware Tribe of Western Oklahoma/Cherokee, born 1968)
Enough, 2015
Museum Purchase: Eiteljorg Fellowship


This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Storyteller magazine. 

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