by Xav Horkman
newARTspace, an intimate art gallery in downtown De Pere, has an upcoming exhibition by Ho-Chunk artist Tom Jones, titled “Strong Unrelenting Spirits.” The exhibition features a series of Ho-Chunk portraits presented through “Jones’ commanding large-scale color photographs with…intricately embellished with his masterful beadwork,” according to a press release from newARTspace.
I was lucky enough to preview the exhibition and view Jones’ powerful work before the opening reception on September 8.
What instantly stands out about Jones’ work is the unique presentation style. I’ve never interacted with a combination of photography and beadwork done at this size and quality. The way that Jones coordinates the beadwork with the portrait, as an additional means of artistic execution and expression, is captivating and fascinating.While I like to think that the captivation and fascination is objectively applicable, I cannot deny the influence and attraction I naturally carry towards Jones’ work due to my indigenous background.
The work is such an admirable showcase of indigenous culture. The portraits are filled with individuals wearing traditional attire and regalia. Seeing these individuals captured and displayed with such present reverence is an impactful experience. It induces thoughts of cultural depth. There is so much culture and language and history and humanity in these portraits.
The exhibition feels both historic and contemporary at the same time. These portraits are impactful now but are likely to be even more impactful as time passes. That is a unique element of such an active cultural reflection in art. New value emerges as time creates a gap (or a bridge) to these snapshots of culture. Jones’ work has a timelessness to it. It’s not an artistic trend, it’s not a flash in the pan. It’s Ho-Chunk’s story.
The importance of finding this work in non-indigenous spaces does not escape me in these moments. Jones’ work here is significant and crucial. newARTspace owners Terri Warpinski and David Graham deserve to be commended for hosting such an exhibition in their space.
I encourage you to visit newARTspace for the opening night of this exhibition. If not, make time to get to the gallery while the exhibition is on display. The more this work is interacted with, the longer it stays alive.
Strong Unrelenting Spirits Opening Reception September 8th 5–8 pm September 8th–October 15th newARTSpace 124 North Broadway, De Pere, WI, 54115 newartspace124.com
Xav Horkman is a freelance indigenous writer who currently lives on the Oneida Nation reservation. You can find more of his work in The Business News and on his Patreon page here: patreon.com/xavhorkman