“Telling the Stories of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community”

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“Telling the Stories of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community”

VIEWS: 1527 March 2, 2022

Public Art Gallery at Civic Center Library Features SRPMIC Artists

By Chris Picciuolo

A new exhibition called “FIRST: Native American Artists of Arizona” is on view through March 30 at the Public Gallery inside Scottsdale’s Civic Center Library.

The exhibition was curated in consultation with Ron Carlos, potter and member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. SRPMIC artists with work featured in the gallery include Carlos, Jacob Butler and Thomas “Breeze” Marcus.

Other artists featured include Chelsea Bighorn, David Haff, Damian Jim, Zachary Justin, Marie Koonooak, Mario Martinez, David Chethlahe Paladin, Roger Perkins, Melanie Sainz and Jesse Yazzie.

Scottsdale Public Art said in a statement that it “acknowledges that this exhibition takes place in unceded and unsurrendered Indigenous homelands. We acknowledge the ancestors of the First Nations peoples of modern-day Arizona. The makeup of our current state is entirely shaped by these ancestors.”

Public Art Gallery at Civic Center Library Features SRPMIC Artists
Thomas “Breeze” Marcus’ collection of oil-based ink on repurposed string instruments called “Suite for the Akimel”

Scottsdale Public Art Curator of Collections and Exhibitions Wendy Raisanen curates art exhibitions quarterly at the library.

“We put out a call in fall 2021 for Native American artists who live in Arizona,” said Raisanen. “My point was that it doesn’t have to be traditional Native arts; it can be contemporary, referring to now. That’s something that I’m really interested in, because Native American artists have so much history and tradition behind them. How do the artists reflect that into their current art?”

When Raisanen originally asked Carlos to help curate the collection, he declined because he was very busy. But she asked him to reconsider, and he said yes. Carlos then made a call for artists.

“I contacted the artists I knew throughout the state,” said Carlos.

Public Art Gallery at Civic Center Library Features SRPMIC Artists
Untitled art exhibit by Ron Carlos made from locally mined, fired and glazed clay.

As a potter, Carlos uses the paddle-and-anvil technique and works with all-natural materials that are dug up and processed on SRPMIC lands. The untitled piece that he brought to the exhibition was made from locally mined, fired and glazed clay.

“I made it in a week, with no inspiration, and I had no idea what I was doing. I literally just made the pot first and decided to put a face on there as I was looking at the shape of the pot. Once the pot dried, I thought I’d put a water pattern on there. Super simple,” said Carlos with a laugh. 

Marcus is showing his collection of oil-based ink on repurposed string instruments called “Suite for the Akimel” from 2019. The pieces are displayed separately, but together as one piece. The artwork was inspired by his experience working on artwork right next to the riverbed along the Beeline Highway in an undisclosed location during the winter, after snowfall and rainfall.

“The water had started flowing again, and the dam upstream had to release water. For us being O’odham, and River People in general, we know how important the power of the river is, even though we don’t see it too often,” said Marcus.

“I had acquired these instruments at that time. I was imagining myself as sort of a composer, an interesting juxtaposition with Western European instruments, and I wanted to imagine what it visually would look like if I could translate it into a painting—maybe a series of paintings, a suite—trying to think of what the river sounds like when it’s flowing. There is a lot of movement with the swirl patterns.”

Butler has a few different pieces on display at the gallery: an untitled piece made of saguaro fruit wine-etched shell, and heron and rattlesnake bracelets made from fossilized shell.

Public Art Gallery at Civic Center Library Features SRPMIC Artists
Jacob Butler’s art exhibit using shell artwork that is
being reintroduced to the Community.

He said he was grateful to be asked to help showcase O’odham artwork.

“To be included with the artists in there was an honor for me,” said Butler.

Butler said that the shell artwork is a lost artform that is being reintroduced to the Community through his efforts and others who are re-learning it. One of the shells has a crane fighting a snake, which was inspired by a pot that Butler made.

You can visit the gallery during the library’s normal hours of operation. Civic Center Library, 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale 85251, (480) 312-7323. For more information on the gallery, head to www.scottsdalelibrary.org/exhibitions.