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Native American Perspectives Shown at de Saisset Museum’s “Out of Tradition: Sacred and Profane”

Currently on view at Santa Clara University’s de Saisset Museum is artist Linda Yamane’s “3-Rod Coiled Trinket Basket (‘Watuupen’ in Rumsen Ohlone Language from Monterey Area).” Yamane’s artist statement described the basket, or watuupen, as an item that was traditionally “used during daily life and then burned as a sacrifice when the owner died.”

According to Lauren Baines, the de Saisset Assistant Director, Yamane created essentially the first Ohlone baskets made in over 100 years, and that her work is about bringing back and empowering Ohlone cultural traditions.

“Linda is known for her work revitalizing Ohlone basketry,” Baines said and shared details about Yamane’s “Ohlone Basketry Ear Ornaments” (“Tiprin Tuupen” in Rumsen). “The ear ornaments are her work but based on artifacts. There are a pair of ear ornaments that are historical and date back to the 1800s to the area of Santa Clara. It ended up in collections in London and Berlin. Linda studied those historical ear ornaments and recreated them. She taught herself how to prepare and source the materials and how to weave the materials.”

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These pieces of art, along with others, are part of “Out of Tradition: Sacred & Profane,” on view at the de Saisset Museum through June 15.

“We want to create an opportunity to celebrate throughout this academic year different aspects of Native culture,” Baines said. “With this particular exhibition, looking at this through the lens of tradition, we’re looking at how tradition may change over time, or how an artist might like to see a practice done differently over time.”

At the exhibit, artist Katie Dorame is showing a historical perspective depicting the “apostles” of the California Missions from a unique angle. Her paintings and drawings from her series “Alien Apostles” feature physical traits associated with fictional extraterrestrial characters.

“Katie will joke she’d always wanted to be a Hollywood director,” Baines said. “Her work always has a film and Hollywood component to it. [In ‘Alien Apostles’] she’s using the series to reimagine the colonization of Native land though the California missions system as a 1950s B movie about alien invasion. The missions were established in the 1700s.”

Speaking of the missions, Catherine Herrera’s artist statement referenced a story about how Ohlone and California Native women at the Bay Area missions endured humiliation by having to carry wooden dolls after a miscarriage or while struggling with infertility. Created from California coastal wood, shells, and various recycled fabrics, Herrera’s dolls from her “Spirit Doll” series were made with her idea to “celebrate and honor the value of women in the world.”

“Catherine has had some medical concerns she has had to tend to,” Baines said. “The dolls are intended for the artist to transform what was supposed to be a negative experience into something that provided resiliency. She described it as a way to reclaim her own power. She sees these dolls as being a positive symbol.”

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