First published in the Jan. 21 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Burbank’s Mercedes Dorame, of the Gabrielino Tongva Tribe, was recently selected for the prestigious 2023 Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. Dorame was among Five Native American or First Nations artists chosen for the honor.
Trailblazing mixed media, sculpture, beadwork and photography by the artists will be on exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art beginning in November.
Each fellowship artist will receive a $50,000 unrestricted grant, and the museum expects to purchase more than $100,000 of their artworks to add to its collection of contemporary Native American art, considered one of the best collections of Native contemporary art in the world.
Every other year since 1999, the Eiteljorg Fellowship has helped bring Native contemporary art to the forefront, casting a spotlight on the works of leading Native artists from across the U.S. and Canada. This year’s five artists ― the 12th round of the fellowship overall ― were chosen by a panel of three art experts who reviewed their works.
Dorame creates photographs documenting the installations she has created using natural materials with the land. Her ancestral home is present-day Los Angeles, and her work explores the roles of culture and ceremony, past and present.
Along with Dorame, the Eiteljorg fellows are Ruth Cuthand, of the Plains Cree Tribe of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Natalie Ball of the Klamath Tribes of Chiloquin, Oregon; Sean Chandler of the Aaniiih Gros Venture Tribe of Harlem, Montana; and Raven Halfmoon of the Caddo Nation/Choctaw/Delaware Tribes of Norman, Oklahoma.
“The 2023 class of Eiteljorg fellows are an exceptional group of artists who make an impact in a variety of artistic disciplines, and museum visitors will be impressed with the originality, imagination and innovation in their works when the exhibition opens in November,” Eiteljorg President/CEO John Vanausdall said.
“The Eiteljorg made a commitment to presenting the biennial Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship, and each round provides an important opportunity to raise public awareness of the contemporary Native art field and develop support for the artists.”
The field of contemporary Native art has grown and evolved in the 23 years since the Eiteljorg first developed the fellowship program. In light of the increased interest by art institutions in the cutting-edge work of contemporary Native artists, the Eiteljorg Fellowship has increased the amount of the grant each artist is awarded; it will be $50,000 instead of $25,000.
“The Eiteljorg is thrilled to have this opportunity to continue to build the museum’s incredible collection of Native American art,” Eiteljorg Vice President and Chief Curatorial Officer Elisa Phelps said. “The fellowship remains unparalleled in its holistic approach, with exhibition, publication, acquisitions, artist grants and opportunities for the public and staff to engage with the artists all part of the program. We are honored to welcome these five accomplished artists to Indianapolis as fellows.”
Building on the momentum of previous rounds of the fellowship, an exhibition of the 2023 fellows’ work titled “UNSETTLE/Converge” is scheduled to open Nov. 11 and will continue through the end of February 2024 at the Eiteljorg. During the opening weekend, plans call for the artists to lead a public guided tour of the exhibition in the gallery, and there will be other programs where museum visitors can participate and learn more. The museum will publish an art catalogue featuring essays about each of this year’s artists.
“To be an Eiteljorg fellow is a really big deal in the Native/Indigenous circles in the U.S. and Canada, and we at the Eiteljorg are honored to celebrate and support these fellows and the larger contemporary Native art field,” said Dorene Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, Eiteljorg curator of Native American art.
“The title ‘UNSETTLE/Converge’ maintains the thought process of the last two fellowship titles: the lines between contemporary Native art are blurred, have shifted boundaries and are now embarking on de-colonializing definitions to present Native voices and visions foremost.”
A comprehensive overview of all the previous fellowships can be found at contemporaryartfellowship.eiteljorg.org.