On view 9 October - 29 November 2020 in the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum & Gustavian Galleries
Laura Youngbird, monotype, mixed media, 17 x 24 in., Common Thread (3), 2014.
Laura Youngbird completed her BFA, MA, and BS for Art Education from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She is the first and former Director of Native American Art Programs at Plains Art Museum. Laura also taught art at Circle of Nations School in Wahpeton, North Dakota, as an Artist-in-Residence for the North Dakota Council on the Arts and Fargo Public Schools. Laura has received several awards including a 2018 First People’s Fund - Artist in Business Fellowship, Artist Initiative Grants in 2009 and 2013 from the Minnesota State Arts Board, and a Jerome Fellowship in 2003 to work and study with master potter, Richard Bresnahan at St. John’s University in Minnesota. She recently received an Artist in Residence Fellowship from the Institute of American Indian Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Laura has her Masters in printmaking and is a practicing artist working in mixed-media drawing, painting, sculpture and ceramics. Her work has been shown in numerous regional and national galleries and exhibitions.
Laura Youngbird, mixed media, 36 x 48 in., Manifestation, 2016.
Laura Youngbird, lithograph, 28 x 22.5 in., Buried 'A': 'C' is for Columbus, 1991.
Laura Youngbird, acrylic, mixed media, 36 x 24 in., Broken Treaties, 2001.
UNCERTAINTY - Artist Statement
The act of manifesting.
The state of being manifested.
I work in series to help tell a story. I work in a variety of media— drawing, painting, and printmaking. The dress is a constant symbol in my work addressing social injustice. Earlier in my career the dress referenced the Boarding School experience, but has come to tell so much more.
The signature piece of this exhibit is titled Manifestation. Manifestation is a take on Native Americans dislocation and white migration westward, a responce to—or alternate understanding of—the concept of ‘Manifest Destiny.’
The mixed media piece is a take on John Gast’s painting American Progress (1872) which is an allegorical representation of the modernization of the new West. Columbia, represents the United States; with her golden hair, she is dressed in a white flowing robe. She is leading civilization westward, bringing light from the East to the dark, vast, vacant and ‘unused’ West, she strings telegraph wire, while holding a school textbook to advance knowledge. She purposely draws attention to using the land by introducing agriculture and farming. Modern forms of transportation, are also highlighted, specifically the railroad.
The railroad brought the near extinction of the Buffalo. The gold rush appeared to completely dissolve the promises and treaties that were written. Interestingly, Hitler used this same concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’ as an example to justify his conquest of Eastern Europe.
The images are mere snapshots, the tip of the iceberg, of the ongoing effects created with colonization. I have included some early work; Buried ‘A’: ‘C’ is for Columbus, in 1991 as the 500 year ‘celebration’ of Columbus was anticipated. It represents a soil profile with a buried A horizon. A soil profile is a stratified slice of earth, the top layers are labeled A, B, and C, then the parent material, with the bedrock below. A buried A horizon happens with a disaster, such as a flood, or a volcanic explosion that wipes everything out. C is for Columbus.
I also included an early painting of my great great grandfather Maymaushkawash, titled Broken Treaties, holding a pipe and wearing a ‘peace’ medal, that was given to him by King George.
The dresses represent and hold, multiple layers and meaning for me. My mother used to make our clothes for us and taught us to sew. There is the love that goes into making a garment for someone along with the concept of covering, hiding, creating a disguise—trying to make one fit … Over the last few years the MMIW, MMIP (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People) has further expanded and magnified the meaning. All of the above and more.
The dress is a simple garment and a powerful artifact. It represents a sorrowful saga that entwines, binds, and connects my grandmother, my mother, and my sisters with the power of a common thread.
-- Laura Youngbird