Elizabeth Doxtater: Art of Peace
Opening reception & artist’s talk: Monday, September 26, 2.00pm
Six Nations (Mohawk) artist Elizabeth Doxtater explores the ancient art form of cornhusk dolls to preserve traditional culture and histories while inviting viewers to consider their role in creating peace in the world. Art of Peace features over 100 cornhusk dolls in two displays: Peacemaker’s Journey and First Council Fire (Encircles Everything).
Peacemaker’s Journey is a significant part of Native American and First Nations history, particularly Haudenosaunee history. The Great Law of Peace, Kaianerekowa, were instructions sent by the Creator through the Peacemaker: live harmoniously with all things, including animals, plants, water, and each other. The Great Law allowed the people to heal from past wars and trauma to rebuild themselves, their families and villages.
First Council Fire (Encircles Everything) is a diorama of 101 cornhusk dolls representing 50 Clan Mothers and 50 Chiefs encircling the Tree of Peace. When the Great Law was ratified among the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora nations, a White Pine was uprooted and the people threw their weapons into the pit. Each Chief and Clan Mother, represented in the diorama by intricately designed clothing and beadwork, was given duties and powers to carry out the Great Law.
Doxtater was inspired to create this work after viewing iconic western paintings such as Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Mona Lisa. She began to wonder how she could visually represent and celebrate her own cultural history, which has been based on oral traditions. By creating visual references to her history, Doxtater encourages dialogue and sharing based on the traditional stories. Art of Peace provides a timely reminder of how a new kind of healing is possible by rediscovering and reformatting ancient strategies and old teachings to reflect the spectrum of current needs.
This exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Center for Native American Studies, with generous support provided by the Center Native American Studies, the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, School of Education, Leadership and Public Service, History Department, Academic Information Services and UNITED Conference. Additional support provided by the John X. and June A. Jamrich Endowment and Friends of the DeVos Art Museum.
Elizabeth Doxtater, Where the Water Never Freezes, 2012, cornhusk dolls, fabric, leather, beads, wood, courtesy of the artist