“Contemporary Cape Artists of Native American Heritage,” a new exhibit at Berta Walker Gallery, 208 Bradford St. in Provincetown, features artwork with local indigenous connections. Running concurrently (through Election Day) is “Unity: Exploring Freedom and Democracy in 2020,” a show of works with political or social resonance by gallery artists, including Varujan Boghosian, Selina Trieff, Paul Resika, Salvatore Del Deo, Joe Diggs, as well as guests.
This multifaceted exhibit honors Provincetown 400, while raising questions about the history of the Pilgrims, their relationship to Native American peoples, and the origins of democracy.
Curator Berta Walker tells the Independent that the show would have been more expansive but was limited by the pandemic. Still, the artists included offer a range of styles and media.
There’s a sculpture by Nathan Balk-King, a student at UMass Amherst who grew up in Provincetown and was an apprentice to local sculptor Romolo Del Deo. Balk-King, whose mom is select board member Lise King and whose dad is Lakota, started a program for schools called Model United Nations Indigenous.
The exhibit celebrates the photography of New Orleans-based Ride Hamilton, who is of Pueblo heritage and has shot productions of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. “It is an interesting concept,” Walker says of Hamilton’s photographs, “because it’s theater and art turned into an installation piece.”
The show includes paintings by Yeffe Kimball, a fraught choice because of evidence that she assumed Osage identity to lend herself credence as a woman artist. Walker says she met Kimball “as a youngster,” when, along with Andy Warhol, she was showing at the Chrysler Museum in Provincetown. “Even if she wasn’t Native American, her career was based on that,” Walker says. As a result, the work raises questions about appropriation and veneration.
The exhibit features artwork by Deb Mell and Sky Power, two Walker gallery artists with Native American roots and iconography in their art. Mell’s painting, Stop Hiding, recalls totem animals, while Power’s Ikage is inspired by the Cherokee alphabet.
Finally, Duane Slick’s Coyote’s Return, which was chosen as the logo image for this year’s Swim for Life & Paddler Flotilla, has a prominent place in the show. It depicts a coyote, a trickster character, on the backs of two turtles, creatures instrumental in the creation of the world. A percentage of sales from the exhibit will be donated to Swim for Life.