Meet the Chehalis artist Weaving a new Native narrative

Dunn Marsh sees a connection between Object/Ritual and A Weaver’s Voice. And not just because both feature garments. In a way, Dunn Marsh says, Kearney has curated both projects.

“For years she has been facing, and carefully examining, caricatures of her Native culture through Object/Ritual, photographing these pieces with the reverence usually accorded to museum objects, thereby revealing their grotesque qualities,” Dunn Marsh wrote. But the “hand-dyed and hand-spun wool, intricate patterns, choice of furs, hooves, and other adornment reflective of the natural surroundings” in Weaver’s Voice “could not be more different from the plastic and polyester materials to which she paid equally detailed attention in Object/Ritual.”

Another major contrast: For Kearney, the Resurgence of Coast Salish wool Weaving was much more joyful to bear witness to. For the past year, she has been documenting Coast Salish Weaving instruction in the fiber art studio at the s’gʷi gʷi ʔ altxʷ: House of Welcome at The Evergreen State College. She has photographed the natural dying process, the spinning of the wool with the spindle whorls and the weaving on the looms.

Back in the brightly lit Fuller Gallery, Kearney walks us through the story of each blanket, told to her in conversations with the weavers.

“When they would speak about why they were doing their artwork, it was just so different than any Intentions that had ever been expressed for creating artwork,” Kearney says. “It wasn’t like, ‘I’m doing this to make a statement,’ or ‘I’m doing this to express my life story or to reach towards an ineffable idea of ​​beauty.’ … They’re like, ‘I’m creating this so that my son can live in wellness,’ or ‘My mother can feel proud of who she is.’”

These first-person stories in A Weaver’s Voice, displayed on wall texts here, bring the Intentions and expressions of the Weavers to the fore. This relational approach is a marked break from the detached nature — both in the garment’s production process and Kearney’s process — of Object/Ritual.

Standing in the middle of the space, she’s almost enveloped by a cluster of blankets — and Grateful for the shift in her artistic focus.

Kearney made Object/ Ritual in the hope of sparking conversations towards what she calls “a better understanding of Indigenous people as they live today.” But producing it was emotionally taxing. Luckily, “there was this to pivot from that,” she says, gesturing to the garments created with care and kinship. “This was a cleansing.”

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