Jaune Quick-to-See Smith/Neal Inuksois Ambrose-Smith
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, b. 1940 and b. 1966
Trade Canoe: Fry Bread, 2018
Wood lath, artificial sinew, fry bread, varnish
Courtesy of the artists and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York
In Trade Canoe: Fry Bread (2018), Jaune Quick-to-See Smith collaborates with her son Neal Inuksois Ambrose-Smith in a sculptural work. The piece is a wood canoe constructed out of pine and synthetic sinew, filled to the brim with frybread that has hardened over time. A recurring theme in Smith’s work, the canoe represents movement and transportation through waterways and also a vehicle utilized in trade with other Indigenous communities as well as with settlers. While many things were traded to Indigenous peoples, such as disease-ridden blankets and moldy foods, Smith and her son use the frybread–filled canoe as a mechanism to symbolically return harmful trade goods to non-Indigenous groups. Frybread, though assumed to be associated with Indigenous peoples, was initially created from limited government-supplied rations and ultimately replaced heathier Indigenous crops. Food types such as frybread have contributed to the increased incidence of diabetes and heart disease in Indigenous communities. As stated by Anya Montiel, Ph.D., “The Smiths have responded to the onslaught of colonial violence through disrupting the transmission, loading their canoe with a detrimental trade item.”
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith refers to herself as a cultural arts worker. She uses humor and satire to examine myths, stereotypes, and the paradox of Indigenous life in contrast to the consumerism of American society. Her work is philosophically centered by her strong traditional beliefs and political activism. Smith is internationally known as an artist, curator, lecturer, printmaker, and freelance professor as well as a mentor, for she believes that giving back is a life philosophy. She was born at St. Ignatius Mission, raised by her father, who was an illiterate horse trader, and began working as a field hand at age 8. Smith earned an art education degree at Framingham State College in Massachusetts (now Framingham University) and an M.A. in art at the University of New Mexico. She has organized and curated more than 30 Native exhibitions in 40-plus years. She has given more than 200 lectures at museums and universities internationally and has shown in more than 125 solo exhibitions and more than 650 group exhibitions. Her work is in collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Brooklyn Museum; the Whitney Museum; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Berlin Museum of Ethnology, Germany; the University of Regina, Canada; and the Museum of Modern Art. Smith holds five honorary degrees and has received numerous awards, including the following: 1987 American Academy of Art and Letters Purchase Award, New York; 1995 Painting Award, Fourth International Bienal, Cuenca, Ecuador; 1996 Joan Mitchell Foundation Award; 1997 Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award; 2005 New Mexico Governor’s Award; 2011 inducted into the National Academy of Design; 2012 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Living Artist of Distinction; honorary B.A. degree, Salish Kootenai College, Montana; 2018 Montana Governor’s Award; 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award in Printmaking, Southern Graphics Council International; 2019 Murray Reich Distinguished Artist Award, New York; and 2020 United States Artists Fellowship.
Neal Inuksois Ambrose-Smith works in a variety of media such as sculpture, painting, and printmaking and has had a 30-year career as an artist. His work is focused on Pop, Star Wars, comic books, coyote stories, and commercial ads influenced by Andy Warhol. He worked as a studio assistant to his mother, artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, in the 1980s and ’90s, digitally designing embeds for the Denver Airport Floor public art commission. In 2000, Ambrose-Smith began several years of mentorship of non-solvent printmaking with Keith Howard, which led to his earning an MFA degree in alternative printmaking at the University of New Mexico. Ambrose-Smith has shown his prints internationally in South Korea, France, Ireland, and many other places, including universities and museums across the U.S. He has taught alternative printmaking workshops at many universities and conferences for more than a decade. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Ambrose-Smith collaborated on many sculpture projects with his mother, one of which is in this exhibition. He worked for the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s CALL program (Creating a Living Legacy) in New York from 2010 to 2014 as a consultant. Currently, he is chair of the art department at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where he heads and is resurrecting the printmaking program (2015-present). His work is in many collections, including the New York Public Library Print Collection; the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.; Flint Institute, Michigan; Hongik University, Seoul, South Korea; Denver Art Museum; Monash University, Gippsland, Australia; the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis; Cork Printmakers Collection, Cork, Ireland; Missoula Art Museum; and Salish Kootenai College, Montana. Ambrose-Smith has a drawing exhibition with Chiaroscuro Gallery in Santa Fe in spring 2020 and a survey painting exhibition with the Missoula Art Museum in 2020.