Cherokee Diaspora and Art

June 11, 2022 – September 4, 2022

For the Cherokee, our creation story is tied to our ancestral lands, which include what is now known as Georgia. We hold our origins and identity to these places, even if we no longer live there. Like other Indigenous groups on this continent, Cherokee understanding of self and culture has changed over time either by choice or because of necessity. And with that, so has our relationship to land. Migration has never been a foreign concept to the Cherokee, but as settler colonialism continues to impact the lives of Indigenous peoples on this continent, one result is a large Cherokee diaspora. Like our ancestors, who adapted and evolved in order to ensure survival of self and culture, so do contemporary Cherokee. It is in this reality of continuation that many Cherokee artists create their work.

Historian James Clifford, from whose book Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century this exhibition borrows its name, examines processes of cultural renewal through the production of art. Clifford seeks to remove the perceived, inherent contradictions of an Indigenous and diasporic life. So much of indigeneity is an inherent perception of an internal connection to the land from which one emerged; however, removal from our land does not make us any less Indigenous. Clifford states, “Diasporic ruptures and connections—lost homelands, partial returns, relational identities, and world-spanning networks—are fundamental components of [I]ndigenous experience today.”

Returns: Cherokee Diaspora and Art features the works of three contemporary artists: Luzene Hill (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), Brenda Mallory (Cherokee Nation), and Kade Twist (Cherokee Nation). Each artist explores their identity – as a contemporary person, a Cherokee citizen, a human being in a global environment – in unique ways. They use art as a mechanism to not only celebrate but also interrogate their Indigeneity. It is in these interrogations, demonstrated though a variety of media, that the exhibition asks visitors to reexamine their own place on this land.

James Clifford, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 88.


Luzene Hill

Luzene Hill is a multidisciplinary artist, best known for immersive installations and performance collaborations. Through work informed by pre-contact culture of the Americas Hill advocates for Indigenous sovereignty - linguistic, cultural and individual sovereignty. Employing early autochthonous motifs she asserts female power and sexuality to challenge colonial patriarchy. Recent works, Revelate and Smoke and Mirrors, present evocative new ways of thinking about the past and the future. An enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Hill lives and works in Atlanta, GA. She has exhibited throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Russia, Japan and the United Kingdom. Awards include: 2019 Ucross Fellowship, 2016 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship, 2015 Eiteljorg Museum Fellowship and 2015 First Peoples Fund Fellowship. Recent residencies: 2020 Social Engagement Residency, IAIA MoCNA; 2020 Invited Artist Residency, Anderson Ranch Arts Center; and 2021 Invited Artist Residency, Township 10. Hill’s work is featured in Susan Powers’ book, “Cherokee Art: Prehistory to Present”, Josh McPhee’s book, “Celebrate People’s History!: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution”, and the PBS Documentary, “Native Art NOW!”.

Brenda Mallory

Brenda Mallory’s mixed media sculptural works are comprised of a variety of materials including cloth, fibers, beeswax, and found objects. By creating multiple forms that are joined with crude hardware that imply tenuous connections or repairs, her work addresses ideas of interference and disruption in long-established systems of nature and human cultures. Mallory lives in Portland, Oregon but grew up in Oklahoma and is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She holds a BA in Linguistics & English from UCLA and a BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art. She has received grants from the Oregon Arts Commission, Ford Family Foundation, and the Regional Arts & Culture Council. She is a recipient the Eiteljorg Contemporary Native Art Fellowship, the Native Arts and Culture Foundation Fellowship in Visual Art and the Ucross Native Fellowship. She has participated in artist residencies including Ucross, Anderson Ranch, Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, Glean, Bullseye Glass, and Signal Fire Outpost, c3:initiative, and the Jordan Schnitzer Printmaking Residency at Sitka Center for the Arts.

Kade Twist

Kade L. Twist is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and grew up in Bakersfield, California. Twist is an interdisciplinary artist, poet and co-founding member of Postcommodity. Twist is a 2015 US Artist Klein Fellow for Visual Arts, recipient of the 2007 Native Writers Circle of the Americas First Book Award for Amazing Grace. In addition to his creative practice, Twist is Associate Professor and Curriculum Area Head of Art+Social Practice in the MFA Fine Arts Department at Otis College of Art and Design, in Los Angeles. Prior to Otis, Twist served as a public policy analyst specializing in American Indian technology, healthcare and community development for 17 years.


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