Kay WalkingStick Opens June 17

Posted: May 18, 2017

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Smithsonian-curated Retrospective of Native American Painter

The artist will visit Kalamazoo June 14-17

A national tour of Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist will open at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Saturday, June 17. The artist will visit Kalamazoo for several events June 14-16.

The touring exhibition surveys the career of a leading practitioner of contemporary landscape painting, and features approximately 60 of her most notable works: abstract paintings, landscapes and diptychs drawn from public and private collections and from the collection of the artist, who enjoys a worldwide following.

The exhibition originated at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in 2015, co-curated by Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo), Associate Curator, and David W. Penney, Associate Director for Museum Scholarship at the NMAI.

The exhibition reveals WalkingStick's varied approaches to painting over the decades--from graphic figurative work to lushly layered expressionism. In addition to tracing her artistic journey, the exhibition engages issues of race, identity, and national history, key themes not only to contemporary Native art but to American culture at large.

"Kay WalkingStick is a gift to our nation," says KIA Executive Director Belinda Tate. "This exhibition represents more than four decades of her aesthetic journey and recognizes her notable contributions to contemporary art in America."

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The child of a Cherokee father from Oklahoma and a Scotch-Irish mother from Syracuse, New York, WalkingStick's artistic journey began in the 1970s, with her exploration of modernism and feminism, and investigations into abstraction. In the 1980s and early 1990s, she was part of a movement of Native artists who began asserting their histories. Her work is in the collections of 40 art museums, and she is faculty emerita at Cornell University, where she was professor in the Department of Art, 1988-2005.

WalkingStick has become renowned for her majestic landscapes, which imbue natural scenery with the charge of personal and collective memory.

"This sweeping exhibition demonstrates the breadth of her achievements," says Tate. "Her monumental landscapes reclaim iconic vistas of the American West and return them to a Native identity, restoring a layer of cultural memory that often slips into the background of American society."

Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Following its stay in Kalamazoo, the exhibition will travel to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Oct. 5, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018); and Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey (Feb. 3-June 17, 2018). The exhibition's Kalamazoo presentation is sponsored by PNC.

Wednesday, June 14, 5:30-7 pm
Community Welcome
Kalamazoo City Hall
The KIA, the City of Kalamazoo, Mayor Bobby Hopewell, and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation host a free community welcome for Kay WalkingStick. There is no charge, and all are invited to the Kalamazoo City Hall lobby to enjoy refreshments, remarks from the host organizations, and a chance to meet the artist. Space is limited, so RSVPs are strongly encouraged to invite@kiarts.org.

Thursday, June 15, 6:30 pm
Artist's Talk: The Thread of Landscape

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Kay WalkingStick will talk about her recent work--sweeping landscapes inspired by the beauty she has encountered in the U.S. and abroad. Sponsored by Stryker as part of the Women Artists Series at the KIA. Included with admission ($5/$2 students, free for children through age 12 and KIA members)

Friday, June 16, 6-8 pm
Member/VIP Party & Exhibition Preview

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Join us to meet the artist and enjoy the very first look at her landmark retrospective, along with wine, beer, hors d'oeuvres, and music by pianist Monica Padula. The evening is a benefit of membership, and we'd love to have you join us. Learn more at kiarts.org or email Cindy Trout at cindyt@kiarts.org or call 269/585-9279.

Saturday, June 17, 11 am-5 pm
Exhibition Opening Celebration

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
The exhibition opens to the public at 11 am, with a blessing ceremony at 11:30 am. From 12-3 pm, enjoy traditional music, dance and demonstrations by artists from the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. The day is open to all with free admission, thanks to exhibition sponsor PNC, with programming supported by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.