November 3, 2023 – February 11, 2024
Artists: Bobby C. Martin, Erin Shaw, Tony A. Tiger
About the exhibit:
Why would Native Americans believe in the religion of the invaders? This is a question the artists in this exhibition have been confronted with many times. As Native people who are Christians, we sense a deep paradox when asked this question.
Why do we believe in the Gospel of the invaders, the so-called “white man’s religion”? This is the internal struggle that this exhibition chooses to address. Told within the context of a history of deeply ingrained Christian practice among generations of Native peoples, we face the tensions created in our lives by the faith we practice. In Altars of Reconciliation, viewers experience contemporary, Native-themed altarpieces of sacred art, personal in their stories but universal in their struggle with eternal questions.
Our intent for this show specifically is to explore a theme rarely confronted in the art world: the practice of Christianity among Native peoples. There is and continues to be a long, rich and layered history of Native churches and Christian tradition, but there is an equally long sense of tension and conflict among tribal peoples about questions of faith. Often framed as a “Christian vs. Traditionalist” dichotomy, the real story is not nearly so clear-cut. By facing our own faith struggles and transformations through these ‘altarpieces,’ our desire is to bring about healthy discussion and awareness of how Christianity has played a historic (and continuing) role among our Native peoples, and in the bigger picture, to engage people in thinking about the role of faith in their own lives.
About the artists:
Bobby C. Martin is an artist/educator/facilitator who works out of 7 Springs Studio in Oklahoma. Martin’s artwork is exhibited and collected internationally in group and solo exhibitions, the most recent being a one-person exhibition entitled But You Don’t Look Indian… His current project, Altars of Reconciliation, is a three-person show featuring Martin, Erin Shaw (Chickasaw-Choctaw), and Tony Tiger (Sac & Fox-Muscogee-Seminole). The works focus on the experiences of the artists as Native Americans and as Christians. An enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) tribe in Oklahoma, he holds a Professor of Visual Arts position at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
Erin Shaw is a painter of borderlands, the spaces between worlds. As a visual storyteller, the child of an Oklahoma farm, Shaw tills the rich soil of dichotomy through her masterful use of color, iconography, and story. A Chickasaw-Choctaw artist, she creates in a state of tension, where both solemnity and humor pervade and truths are revealed in unanticipated ways. She earned a BFA in studio art from Baylor University and an MFA from the University of Oklahoma. She is an Assistant Professor of Visual Arts at John Brown University and a featured artist in Visual Voices: Contemporary Chickasaw Art, among other exhibits.
Tony A. Tiger is an artist, independent Indigenous art curator, and art educator. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Oklahoma State University Stillwater. Tiger is the former Director of the Bacone College Art program in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Speak: Speak While You Can is Tiger’s current curation project. The exhibition focuses on the revitalization of Indigenous languages. Tony’s art is in private and public collections in North America and abroad. He is represented by the Exhibit C Gallery in Oklahoma City and the Rain Maker Gallery in Bristol, UK. He supports community events and is active in the local Indigenous church.