On July 7, an opening reception was held at Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park in Phoenix for a new art exhibition, When Rez Dogs Howl, featuring artworks by O’odham artist Thomas “Breeze” Marcus. The exhibition is a series of works about the duality of the past teachings of O’odham. It also gives a contemporary perspective on rez life today, the transformation the O’odham have made, what they have held onto, and how they have adapted through pain and triumph of everyday life.
Marcus is known for exploring issues relating to contemporary Native America in his work, which includes large-scale painted murals and public art as well as studio painting. He was approached by the Pueblo Grande Museum a year ago asking him to create a contemporary art exhibition, and he jumped at the opportunity.
“Of course I said yes, because it’s related to us ancestrally and to me it was a big deal to show here because of the history of this place,” said Marcus.
After recently moving back to the Community, one of the things Marcus said he had to get used to is the dogs howling all night long.
“This made me think deeper [about] what was happening when those dogs were howling,” said Marcus. “When you hear dogs howl on the (Salt River) rez, it’s usually when sirens are going by. Sometimes, perhaps it’s a pack of coyotes off in the distance, or maybe the dogs are just howling at the moon.”
In the old days, the Huhugam had dogs who alerted, hunted, served as companions and so much more, he added. “Dogs were even given proper burials and honored at times. Where we’ve come from ancestrally, we always carry stories about our surrounding environment and how the animals indigenous to the area show us and teach us things.”
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Merlin Jackson and his family came out to view the exhibition after becoming familiar with Marcus’ work and that of fellow artist Dwayne Manuel through O’odham Action News and from seeing their art around the Community.
Jackson said, “I liked it. I thought it was really good. I like that there were O’odham singers here (for the opening reception), and the art was all nice. I liked the painting with Camelback Mountain.”
The outdoor opening reception featured a viewing of the exhibition, music, food and performances by O’odham singers.
When Rez Dogs Howl will continue through May 14, 2023, at the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park, located at 4619 E. Washington St. in Phoenix.