Monarchs follows Artistic and Human Migration

By Sandra Hale Schulman
- News From Indian Country -

A newly opened group exhibition “Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists in the Path of the Butterfly” at The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA) uses the borderless migration pattern of the majestic Monarch to alight on artists from Canada to Mexico. The works of 37 artists who are native to the Americas are separated into conceptual categories including indigenous, immigrant and assimilated, but the show as whole is a gorgeous, earthy ode to all things bright and beautiful, heavy and serious.

The exhibition focuses on the Monarch, the only butterfly that migrates in two directions, as a geographic range and a metaphor. Monarchs (specifically those of eastern North American) fly from southern Canada through the Midwest on their way to Michoacán, Mexico and back, but a single insect doesn’t make the whole journey. Instead it is a series of four generations that make the journey, literally alighting on the exact same trees along the route (if they still stand) to rest, feed, and multiply. How do they do this? Pure instinct passed down from generations, deep inside the DNA

This colorful, inspired survey of artists from or living in the path of the monarch, brings to life the issues of the Dakota Access Pipeline as well as the call to build a wall in Mexico as unrelenting modern problems that create challenges for people native to the Americas. These artists also use inherited cultural memory to showcase and explore historical narratives of their respective heritage through abstract ideas using basket weaving, beadwork, copper hammering,  quilting, and materials such as stucco, plaster, ceramics, and feathers, that hold a deeper meaning in indigenous cultures.

The beginning of the show sets the pace with hundreds of hammered copper butterflies affixed to the walls in a fluttery stream that wraps around 3 walls.  Artist Margarita Cabrera made these beauties with meticulous detail, mascots for the show as a whole.

Two artists – Cannupa Hanska Luger and Marty Two Bulls, Jr. collaborated on an installation in an adjoining room that brings a sobering work called Wasted where a row of ceramic beer and wine bottles and cigarette butts are pierced by arrows, showing a defiant decision against alcoholism and wasted lives. Maybe the path of old ways is the new way.

More important work is by Jeffrey Gibson who is best known for his beaded punching bags but here contributes a sculptural piece of life size tipi poles carrying a fur hide box festooned with crystals and beads. Movement entails physical as well as cultural baggage.

There are a set of quilts by Gina Adams embroidered with defiant messages that decry the breaking of treaties from the 1800s to today. The quilt is generally an item of comfort and warmth but the words stitched in here bristle with injustice.

Miami artist Franky Cruz has built a full size butterfly greenhouse in the back of the exhibit where he has plants they feed on and nesting jars for caterpillars.
The very ground the museum sits on was once the site of the Tequesta tribe but by 1845 when Florida became part of the USA they had effectively been dispersed, though burial mounds and the names of many Florida cities carry on their DNA.

“Monarchs’ brings together the stories of migration and geography of those native to the Americas,” said MOCA Executive Director Chana Budgazad Sheldon. “We are very pleased to showcase these works by many talented artists who derive or live in the migration path of the monarch butterfly. At MOCA, we take pride in providing provocative and innovative exhibitions with works that collectively embody diverse cultures from around the world.”

Other artists include Carmen Argote, Natalie Ball, Margarita Cabrera, Juan William Chávez, Rafa Esparza, Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez, Guillermo Galindo, Sky Hopinka, Donna Huanca, Truman Lowe, Ivan LOZANO, Salvador Jiménez-Flores, Nicholas Galanin and Merritt Johnson, Rodolfo Marron III, Harold Mendez, Mark Menjivar, Ronny Quevedo, Gonzalo Reyes Rodriguez, Josh Rios and Anthony Romero, Guadalupe Rosales, Carlos Rosales-Silva, Francisco Souto, Rodrigo Valenzuela, Mary Valverde, Dyani White Hawk, Nathan Young, and Sarah Zapata.
 Curated by Risa Puleo, the exhibition runs until Aug. 5, 2018.

Some related events:

• Butterfly Activity in NoMi Butterfly Garden - Saturday, July 21 – 2:00 p.m.
Visitors will learn about the monarch butterfly, their migration patterns and their threat of extinction though an exploration of Miami-based artist Franky Cruz’s greenhouse inside of MOCA and a film screening “Sex, Lies and Butterflies.” Each visitor will be given seeds to plant their own butterfly garden.
Cost: Free with museum admission  

•    MOCA Moving Images: “The Golden Dream” Film Screening | Saturday, July 28 – 2:00 p.m.
MOCA will screen the Cannes Film Festival award winning film “The Golden Dream” (2013), directed by Diego Quemada-Diez. This film follows three young men as they make the journey from Mexico to California.
Cost: Free with museum admission  

How    For more information

Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami
770 NE 125th Street
Miami, FL 33161


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