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The Barnes Foundation Presents
Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community

Premier exhibition of the Barnes’s centennial year and its first dedicated to Native American art

February 20–May 15, 2022
Press Preview: Thursday, Feb. 17, 9:30 am

Philadelphia, PA, December 8, 2021—This spring, the Barnes Foundation will present Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community, a major exhibition of historic and contemporary Southwest Native art, including Pueblo and Navajo pottery, textiles, and jewelry. Exploring living artistic traditions that promote individual and community well-being through their making and use, this exhibition is the Barnes’s first dedicated to Native American art and will be on view in the Roberts Gallery from February 20 through May 15, 2022.

This exhibition is sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and Comcast NBCUniversal. Additional support has been provided by Citizens and the Coby Foundation.

Co-curated by Lucy Fowler Williams, associate curator-in-charge and Jeremy A. Sabloff Senior Keeper of American Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, and Tony Chavarria (Santa Clara Pueblo), curator of ethnology at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe, Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community features approximately 100 works, including objects that Dr. Albert C. Barnes collected in New Mexico in 1930 and 1931, as well as works by contemporary Native American artists that highlight the connections between historic pieces and modern practices.

“We are delighted to present this exhibition showcasing objects from the Barnes collection and exploring their artistic, cultural, and historical contexts alongside works by contemporary Native artists. It is a fitting show to kick off the Barnes’s centennial year and the tenth anniversary of our home in the heart of Philadelphia as it exemplifies what we strive to accomplish through our exhibition program: to provide thought-provoking, educational experiences and scholarship that explores our collection and resonates with our history,” says Thom Collins, Neubauer Family Executive Director and President. “We hope this project will bring Southwest Native art to the attention of a broad audience and forge new pathways for study and collaboration between Native and non-Native communities long into the future.”

Dr. Albert C. Barnes initially traveled to the Southwest for the health of his wife, Laura. On their first trip in 1929, the couple was hosted in Taos, New Mexico, by American art patron Mabel Dodge Luhan and her Pueblo husband, Tony Lujan, who introduced them to artists and activists who defended Native rights to land and religious practices. Archival correspondence reveals Dr. Barnes’s relationship with leading figures who influenced his collecting, including artist Andrew Dasburg and archaeologists Kenneth Chapman and Jesse Nusbaum (then director of the Museum of New Mexico), along with prominent traders across the region. In a letter to the French painter Henri Matisse, Dr. Barnes wrote about the harmony, religious seriousness, and communal nature of a Pueblo winter deer dance that he attended.

“Each part of this exhibition examines the histories and ideas that Dr. Barnes and other non-Native visitors to the Southwest were likely unaware of but that influenced the lives of Native peoples and the materials, forms, and design of the art objects they admired and collected,” say Lucy Fowler Williams and Tony Chavarria. “One of our goals with this exhibition is to uncover the importance of the ongoing generative practices of these arts within the contexts of their home communities, where they have adapted and quietly continued over generations, despite innumerable challenges. These art forms endure today as material expressions that mark meaningful connections to places, histories, and life forces, and their making and remaking bind, rebind, and renew essential relationships that nurture individual and community health and well-being.”

The exhibition is organized into five main sections—evoking the four cardinal directions surrounding a central dance plaza—including Pueblo pottery, Navajo weaving, silver jewelry making, and Dr. Barnes’s experiences in the Southwest. A final section examines the importance of the Pueblo dance as an enduring practice essential to communal health and well-being.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Storage Jar (c. 1780), San Ildefonso Pueblo. The oldest Pueblo vessel in the Barnes collection, featuring designs of the cardinal directions and sacred wild turkey feathers.
  • Serape with Poncho Slit (c. 1840–60), Navajo. One of the oldest Navajo textiles in the Barnes collection, it will be on view for the first time in more than 20 years.
  • Squash Blossom Necklace (c. 1910–15), Navajo. One of 25 squash blossom necklaces collected by Dr. Barnes, who loved this symbolic jewelry form.
  • Virgil Ortiz’s (Cochiti Pueblo) clay work Tahu (2011) reclaims and retells histories of resistance to Spanish oppression in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
  • Melissa Cody’s (Navajo) 4th Dimension (2017) features a vibrant palette that speaks to Navajo weavers’ courage and survival after the destruction of their homes, sheep, and land by the federal government in the 19th century.
  • Charles Loloma’s(Hopi) Beauty Within Bracelet (1976) combines turquoise and silver as signs of water, sky, and beauty hidden within.
  • Cara Romero’s (Chemehuevi) photograph Water Memory (2015) recalls the drought that brought her family’s ancestors to their present location on the land.
  • Roxanne Swentzell’s(Santa Clara Pueblo) Pin-da-getti (Strong Heart) (2021), a new sculpture that reminds us to renew our connections to the earth.

Public Programs:
Curators in Conversation: Water, Wind, Breath
Sunday, February 20, 11:30 am 
Co-curators Lucy Fowler Williams and Tony Chavarria in conversation with Pueblo sculptor Roxanne Swentzell. Offered on-site and online.

Education Initiatives:
Class:American Modernism in the Southwest: O’Keeffe to Peña
William Perthes, Bernard C. Watson Director of Adult Education, Barnes Foundation 
Thursdays, February 3–24, 1–3 pm
$220; members $198 
This class takes place on-site or online. 

Class: Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community
Lucy Fowler Williams, associate curator-in-charge and Jeremy A. Sabloff Senior Keeper of American Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Mondays, March 21–April 11, 6–8 pm 
$220; members $198 
This class takes place on-site. 

Docent tours of the exhibition will be available to the public. In addition, Barnes educators will offer pop-up talks in the exhibition and in the permanent collection galleries, focusing on works connected to the themes of the show.

Through the Barnes’s K–12 education program, students in grades K through 12 will be invited to tour the exhibition. A limited number of grant-funded field trips plus busing is available for students in the School District of Philadelphia.

Community Engagement:
The Barnes’s Community Engagement and Family Programming team will work with community partners to offer on-site workshops and virtual presentations. Community members engaged through these programs, which will include discussions, interactive conversations and art-making activities, will be invited to visit the exhibition and explore through guided tours.

This exhibition is organized by the Barnes Foundation and co-curated by Lucy Fowler Williams, associate curator at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Tony Chavarria (Santa Clara Pueblo), curator of ethnology at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe.

Lucy Fowler Williams is associate curator-in-charge and Jeremy A. Sabloff Senior Keeper of American Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia. A cultural anthropologist, her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania examined the production and meanings of Tewa Pueblo textiles and embroidery in New Mexico. Before coming to Penn, she trained at the Indian Arts Research Center of the School of American Research, Santa Fe, and at the University of New Mexico. Some of her recent curatorial projects include the Penn Museum exhibition Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now (2014), the Louis Shotridge Digital Archive about the work and collections of a Tlingit Alaskan Indigenous curator (2011), and the exhibition Paths of Beauty: Pueblo Embroidered Garments of Isabel Gonzales and Shawn Tafoya at the Poeh Center Museum, Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico (2015). Foregrounding collaborative methodologies, her work examines issues of Native American identity and revitalization, museum histories of collecting and representation, textiles, and material culture.

Tony Chavarria
(Santa Clara Pueblo) is curator of ethnology at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe. He has over 30 years’ experience collaborating with tribes and curating Native material culture. He has curated many exhibitions at the museum, including Comic Art Indigéne (2008) and What’s New in New: Recent Acquisitions (2013). He is also co-curator for the first Native exhibition at Epcot Center, Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art (2018–23). When possible, he is an occasional potter and artist.

This exhibition is accompanied by a 224-page catalogue published by the Barnes Foundation in association with Yale University Press that will serve as the collection catalogue to its Southwest art collection. A major new contribution to the field, this book offers the first in-depth scholarly examination of this outstanding collection within the cultural, historic, and artistic contexts of its source communities.

This book includes introductory essays on the formation of the collection based on extensive new archival research and on the experience and significance of Pueblo dance. Each medium—pottery, textiles, and jewelry—is studied in a dedicated section with entries on the objects including the most up-to-date technical information about each and the use and meanings of the objects for Native practitioners. This publication interprets the works from the perspectives of its makers and users within their lived contexts of circulation and meaning.

Developed in close collaboration with Native and non-Native scholars and practitioners to emphasize the perspectives and voices of the communities in which the objects were and continue to be made, this fully illustrated catalogue includes contributions by co-curators Lucy Fowler Williams, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Tony Chavarria (Santa Clara Pueblo), Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, artist TahNibaa Naataanii (Navajo), and specialists Kenneth Williams (Arapaho/Seneca), Laurie D. Webster, and Robert Bauver.

Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community is sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation, Terra Foundation for American Art, Comcast NBCUniversal, Citizens, and the Coby Foundation, Ltd.

Generous support for exhibitions comes from the Christine and Michael Angelakis Exhibition Fund, the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and Aileen and Brian Roberts.

In addition, support for all exhibitions comes from contributors to the Barnes Foundation Exhibition Fund.

The Barnes Foundation is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution that shares its unparalleled art collection with the public, organizes special exhibitions, and presents programming that fosters new ways of thinking about human creativity. The Barnes collection is displayed in ensembles that integrate art and objects from across cultures and time periods, overturning traditional hierarchies and revealing universal elements of human expression. Home to one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern paintings—including the largest groups of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne in existence—the Barnes brings together renowned canvases by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Vincent van Gogh, alongside African, Asian, ancient, medieval, and Native American art as well as metalwork, furniture, and decorative art.

The Barnes Foundation was established by Dr. Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” A visionary collector and pioneering educator, Dr. Barnes was also a fierce advocate for the civil rights of African Americans, women, and the economically marginalized. Committed to racial equality and social justice, he established a scholarship program to support young Black artists, writers, and musicians who wanted to further their education. Dr. Barnes was deeply interested in African American culture and became actively involved in the Harlem Renaissance, during which he collaborated with philosopher Alain Locke and Charles S. Johnson, the scholar and activist, to promote awareness of the artistic value of African art.

Since moving to Philadelphia in 2012, the Barnes Foundation has expanded its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice, teaching visual literacy in groundbreaking ways; investing in original scholarship relating to its collection; and enhancing accessibility throughout every facet of its programs.

The Barnes Foundation is situated in Lenapehoking, the ancestral homeland of the Lenape people. Read our Land Acknowledgment.

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Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications
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