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Makers of the Now: Contemporary Native American and First Nations Artists

Makers of the Now: Contemporary Native American and First Nations Artists

Frye Art Museum

Makers of the Now: Contemporary Native American and First Nations Artists

Lecture Series with Sonny Assu, Natalie Ball, Nicholas Galanin, Tracy Rector, and Preston Singletary.

This series presents five Native American and First Nations artists living and working in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, highlighting their individual practices and examining the production of knowledge about contemporary indigenous artists. Within the context of an art world that retains anthropological notions about Native American and First Nations art—past and present—the speakers will discuss their processes, collaborations, and the ways in which they are constantly reimagining, adapting, and preserving their traditions in the present as well as for future generations.


Thursday, August 23, 7 pm: Natalie Ball

Thursday, September 20, 7 pm: Preston Singletary

Thursday, October 18, 7 pm: Sonny Assu

Thursday, November 15, 7 pm: Tracy Rector

Thursday, December 6, 7 pm: Nicholas Galanin


Natalie Ball was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She holds a Bachelor’s degree with a double major in Ethnic Studies and Art from the University of Oregon. She furthered her education in New Zealand at Massey University where she attained her Master’s degree in Maori Visual Arts. Ball then relocated to her ancestral homelands of Chiloquin, Oregon to raise her three children. Her installations and performative art have been shown at exhibitions and museums worldwide, including Te Manawa Museum, New Zealand; Out of Sight 2016, Seattle; Portland2016 Biennial; Open Engagement 2016, CA; Portland Art Museum; Nerman Museum, Kansas; IAIA MoCNA, New Mexico; and Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Oregon. Natalie just completed her MFA degree in Painting at the Yale University School of Art.

Preston Singletary is known for forging a relationship between European glass blowing traditions and Northwest Native art. His artworks feature themes of transformation, animal spirits, and shamanism through elegant blown glass forms and mystical sand-carved Tlingit designs. Singletary has studied with Seattle artists including Benjamin Moore and Dante Marioni, as well as Italian glass blowing legends Lino Tagliapietra, Cecco Ongaro, and Pino Signoretto. Recognized internationally, Singletary’s artworks are included in museum collections such as The British Museum, London; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Seattle Art Museum; The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York; The Microsoft Art Collection; The Mint Museum of Art and Design, Charlotte, North Carolina; The Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona; and The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Sonny Assu (Liǥwildaʼx̱w of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations) was raised in North Delta, British Columbia, over 250 km away from his home ancestral home on Vancouver Island, but it wasn’t until he was eight years old that he discovered his Liǥwildax̱w/Kwakwaka’wakw heritage. Later in life, this discovery would be the conceptual focal point that helped launch his unique art practice. Assu received his BFA from the Emily Carr University in 2002 and was the recipient of their distinguished alumni award in 2006. He received the BC Creative Achievement Award in First Nations art in 2011 and was thrice long-listed for the Sobey Art Award. He received his MFA from Concordia University in 2017 and was one of the Laureates for the 2017 REVEAL Indigenous Art Awards. Assu’s artistic practice is diverse, spanning painting, sculpture, photography, digital art and printmaking. Sonny negotiates Western and Kwakwaka’wakw principles of art-making as a means of exploring his family history and the experiences of being an Indigenous person in the colonial state of Canada. His work is included in private and public collections including the National Gallery of Canada; Seattle Art Museum; Vancouver Art Gallery; Museum of Anthropology at UBC; Burke Museum at the University of Washington; Art Gallery of Greater Victoria; Hydro Quebec; and Lotto Quebec.

Tracy Rector, M.Ed, is a mixed-race (Choctaw/Seminole) filmmaker, curator, community organizer, co-founder of Longhouse Media, and the recipient of a 2016 Stranger Genius award. She has made more than 400 short films and is currently in production of her fifth feature documentary. As co-producer of the award-winning film “Teachings of the Tree People,” producer of “March Point,” co-director of “Clearwater,” and director of “Ch’aak’ S’aagi,” Rector has developed an awareness and sensitivity to the power of media and film as a modern storytelling tool. Her work has been featured on Independent Lens; at Cannes Film Festival; ImagineNative; National Geographic’s All Roads Film Project; Toronto International Film Festival; the Seattle Art Museum; and in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Raised in Seattle and Albuquerque, she currently lives in Seattle and serves as a City of Seattle arts commissioner.

Nicholas Galanin is a conceptual artist inspired by, and extending, generations of Tlingit creativity. His work strikes a balance between the traditions of his heritage and an incisive contemporary approach to manifesting ideas visually. Galanin studied at London Guildhall University, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with honors in jewelry design and silversmithing. He earned a Master’s degree in indigenous visual arts from Massey University in New Zealand. He is also renowned for his musical performances as Indian Nick and Silver Jackson, and most recently within the three-member collaborative Indian Agent, along with musicians OC Notes and Zak Dylan Wass.


Sonny Assu. SNIKT, 2017. Acrylic Paint, acrylic ink, acrylic medium, Marvel comic book pages on panel. Image courtesy of the Artist and the Equinox Gallery. Photo: Scott Massey, Site Photography.
Sonny Assu. SNIKT, 2017. Acrylic Paint, acrylic ink, acrylic medium, Marvel comic book pages on panel. Image courtesy of the Artist and the Equinox Gallery. Photo: Scott Massey, Site Photography.