By Anissa Joonas ‘13
When I entered the exhibit “Nuance of Sky” at the Pomona College Museum of Art, I felt like I had stepped into a pool of blue. The color blue was everywhere; woven, sewn, painted, and threaded into the Native American artifacts on display: a Sioux beaded jacket, blown glass, Caddo moccasins, Pomo feather baskets, abstract acrylic paintings and contemporary Cheyenne mono prints.
“Wougim” is the Cheyenne word for “sacred blue sky,” and as I walked through the blue continuum, I understood what they mean by “sacred.” They believe water is a spirit and that the sky protects them from harmful rays. Their closeness to nature manifests itself in the materials used to produce their commodities: buckskin leather, silver, copper, abalone shells and clamshell and the feathers from mallard ducks, red-headed woodpeckers and meadowlarks.
“Nuance of Sky” unites some of the work of Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds with historic Native American art objects. The mix of art with artifacts shows that art can go beyond aesthetics and become a cultural tool and weapon, addressing issues such as water rights.
Art as a weapon is also the theme of the second exhibit I went to, “Art and Activism in the U.S.” The artists shown are political activists, and their artwork—mostly posters, prints and photographs—speaks to social and political issues from the 20s to the present. “Make art not war” and “You can’t arrest an idea” are some of their slogans. So tear down the posters on your dorm walls and put up photographs of the lives of convicts in the American regimented prison system instead. The black and white photography is not just aesthetic; it also depicts the realities of incarceration and is, in that sense, a political commentary.
The last exhibit, “Project Series 45: Kirsten Everberg: In a Grove” strays away from the social activism present in the other two shows. Instead I was immersed in the hallucinatory environment created by four large canvases on which Everberg has poured glossy enamel paint to create abstract art. The exhibit is more of an acid trip than anything else, as the viewer is wrapped in the blurry but vibrant colors that seem to subtly shift as he or she moves along the work. The distortion of space and time forces the viewer’s questions toward the nature of perception.
The Pomona College Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 12-5 p.m. and Thursdays, from 5-11 p.m. for “Art after Hours.”