Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

Honoring Indigenous Artists

November 1, 2022

In honor of Native American Heritage Month this November, which recognizes the significant contributions made by the first Americans to the establishment and growth of the United States, the Brandeis Alumni Association is highlighting Native American and Indigenous artists who have a Brandeis connection.

Abstract painting of Pueblo people
The paintings of artist Romando Vigil are both abstract and descriptive of Pueblo culture. Two of his works are currently on display at the Rose Art Museum. 

Bright red dresses hung from tree branches across campus last fall. The dresses were part of The REDress Project, an art installation by artist Jaime Black, who is of Anishinaabe and Finnish descent. Black worked with Brandeis students to install the piece, which calls attention to the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women in North America.

Full of tribal symbolism and fueled by memories of powwows past, Wampanoag alumna Natasha Frye’s colorful paintings adorn a trading post and gathering space in her native Mashpee, Massachusetts.

Jeffrey Gibson’s BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY (2021) is on view at the Rose as part of the museum’s 60th anniversary exhibition re: collections, Six Decades at the Rose Art Museum. Gibson is a member of the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw Indians and his vibrantly patterned work refers to his Indigenous heritage and queer identity and the aesthetics and biases associated with those identity markers.

Mexican artist Noé Martínez, who is of Huastec lineage, questions the relationship between art, politics, and participation in his work. Pieces like Árbol. Las presencias dormidas (2020) in the Rose’s collection bring together biographical accounts of his family’s experience in his native Michoacán, manifestations of ancient Indigenous cultures of the region, along with contemporary social mobilizations.

James “Ari” Montford ’74 is a Black Indian descendant of the Simons family from the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, whose painting, collage, installation, and performance deeply explore transculturalism, reflecting his dual heritage and its traumatic histories. After 45 years of educating, curating, and creating in more than two dozen arts and academic institutions, exhibiting his work in over 100 shows, earning more than 30 awards and three degrees, his big thinking, bold intellect, and sensitive heart continue to reexamine what it means to have a sense of agency and identity in a tumultuous world.

The Robert D. Farber University Archives and Special Collections Department at Brandeis is home to 38 original watercolor paintings by several well-known Native American artists from the San Ildefonso Pueblo, just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Two works by Romando Vigil, also known as Tse Ye Mu, are now on view at the Rose.

The Rose Art Museum recently added Marie Watt’s Forerunner (2020) to its permanent collection. Watt is a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians and her multicultural background and Native American heritage deeply inspire her work, specifically Iroquois proto-feminism and Indigenous teachings. Forerunner is now on view at the museum in re: collections, Six Decades at the Rose Art Museum.

Visitors entering the front doors of the Rose Art Museum

The Rose is open to the public Wednesday-Sunday, from 11 a.m. until -5 p.m. Admission is free. Plan your visit.

About the Author

Alexandra Stephens
Alexandra Stephens

Alexandra Stephens is the assistant vice president of advancement communications at Brandeis University. Since joining the Brandeis community in 2010, she has held numerous roles across student affairs, alumni engagement and communications, and has connected with hundreds of alumni and friends to help share their inspiring stories. Outside of work, she is a LinkedIn coach, yogi, home chef and mom of two.

Do you have a personal connection to Native American Heritage Month that you would like to share? Let us know and we may share it on our social media channels.