Tweed Museum celebrates new Native American exhibits

Photo by Jake Barnard

Photo by Jake Barnard

Editors note: A classification has been on this article stating where Briand Morrison is originally from and the origins of Tweeds Native Programing. 11/14/2018.

On Nov. 15 at the Tweed Museum of Art from 6pm to 8pm, an opening reception for Intersections and Manifest’o, two Native American centered exhibitions will take place.

Briand Morrison, a jazz guitarist from Grand Portage, Minnesota will also be performing.

A Painting by Ojibwe artist Jim Denomie. Photo by Jake Barnard

A Painting by Ojibwe artist Jim Denomie. Photo by Jake Barnard

Intersections is a compilation of paintings from prominent Minnesota Native American artists such as George Morrison, Jim Denomie, and Dyani White Hawk. Some paintings are critiquing Native stereotypes, how we interact with the environment or describing the realities of the native community.

“There's a sense of humor in a lot of the works and a lot of love for the environment of our region,” Karissa Isaacs, the Tweed’s Associate Curator said.

Jonathan Thunder in front of his animation. Photo by Jakob Bermas

Jonathan Thunder in front of his animation. Photo by Jakob Bermas

Jonathan Thunder is a Red-Lake Ojibwe. He grew up in Brooklyn Center and went to art school for Visual Effects and Motion Graphics in St. Paul. In his youth he recalls being fascinated by mythological stories in a book called Ojibwe Ceremonies.

“My artwork has definitely helped me connect with indigenous culture,” Thunder said. “My connection to indigenous cultures has grown through conversations through art and through experience.”

Thunder makes art for many Native American venues and has learned a lot about native stories. He has worked with other native tribes like the Iroquois in Boulder, Colorado and the Arapaho for the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships.

The Manifest’o animation was commissioned by the Tweed one year ago with the intention that it focus on the Native stories in the area.

“This piece is a bit of commentary and a reflection of my experience in Duluth,” Thunder said. “The three vignettes speak to stories that speak to the Anishinaabe culture and how it views this region, the lake, the sky, and the land.”

When the collaboration began it was agreed that the glass case spreading the upper level of Tweed would be used for the animation.

“I had to walk around it quite a few times and take a lot of photos of it and measure it,” Thunder said. “Sometimes I would just sit and look through the cracks of the glass and gaze down the long contours of it.”

After coming up with his idea Thunder created 3D mockups and presented it to the Tweed board members in at least a dozen meetings.

The Manifest’o animation playing the Goldfinch vignette. Photo by Jake Barnard

The Manifest’o animation playing the Goldfinch vignette. Photo by Jake Barnard

“Ultimately I came up with the idea that it would be best to create artwork thats form fitted to look like its inside of the case,” Thunder said.

Thunder worked with a projectionist based out of the United Kingdom to help him figure what technical equipment he needed. Having a partner allowed Thunder to focus more on the aesthetics of his project.

“It allowed me to focus more on the artwork, the concept, and the story,” Thunder said.

Along with the animation he also worked with a 3D printing company to create physical sculptures of his creations.

“We thought, ‘how cool would it be to actually take the digital elements that I created and print them using a 3D printer?,’” Thunder said. “So ultimately by digital means we are birthing them into the world.”

The first story is an adaption of the Anishinaabe Star Woman that Thunder calls the supernaut. The second is the Mishu Bizhiw meaning the Great Lynx in Ojibwe. And the third piece is the Goldfinch that counts the number of leaves in the spring and symbolizing the spirit that keeps the Anishinaabe language alive.

“In the story [Star Woman] visits earth and lands near an Anishinaabe village. She comes down from above the trees and asks if she can stay,” Thunder said. “After the tribe lets her stay she diverges into the water and is never seen or heard from until one day a white lily appears on the water.”

The story is used to understand where white lilies come from. He had heard the story of the Star Woman at a story conference at Leech Lake Tribal College.

Photo by Jake Barnard

Photo by Jake Barnard

“The Mishu Bizhiw is the keeper of the great lake,” Thunder said. “One of his roles is to protect the copper in the lake from mining. My rendering is based on stories that I would hear. In one story the links has copper scales. In another tale it’s said [The Mishu Bizhiw] has the body of a dragon and the head of a lion.”

Several Ojibwe nations are located in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada. These stories are common in each of those nations. The tradition of telling the Mishu Bizhiw story is a long one. The original Mishu Bizhiw is a drawing on a rock on the north shore.

Both Intersections and Manifest’o are an effort from the Tweed to be more inclusive of Native American art. In 2009, the museum's advisory board raised funds to finance the installation of the 50-foot long display case designated to present American Indian art from the the Richard E. and Dorothy Rawlings Nelson collection.

When Associate Curator Karissa Isaacs began at the Tweed two years ago, a top priority was continuing the Native programing.

“One of the Tweed’s priorities is to represent the areas diverse cultures through the art that we have in our collection,” Isaacs said. “Tribal communities are all around Duluth and there’s a sizable native population here.”

For more information on Intersections and Manifest’o click here. For more on Jonathan Thunder’s art click here.

CultureJakob Bermas