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Salish artist invites art museum visitors to follow the white rabbit

Juane Quick-To-See Smith’s art featured in Missoula Art Museum
By Alyssa Kelly
Char-Koosta News

Over 40 people attended Juana Quick-To-See Smith’s “In the Footsteps of Our Ancestors” exhibit opening at the Missoula Art Museum.(Alyssa Kelly photo)Over 40 people attended Juana Quick-To-See Smith’s “In the Footsteps of Our Ancestors” exhibit opening at the Missoula Art Museum.(Alyssa Kelly photo)

MISSOULA – Guests followed the white rabbit across the “In The Footsteps of My Ancestors” art exhibit by Salish artist Jaune Quick-To-See Smith. The rabbit, representing humanity, made a cameo in paintings that explored societal issues including diet and tribal territories as well as the Iraq War.

“There is a rabbit in many of my paintings and it kind of reminds me of coyote,” Quick-To-See Smith said. “In my traditional stories from home, coyote goes across the world battling monsters. It’s kind of like humanity and all the things we go through.”

“Tribal Map” is an art piece Quick-To-See Smith said she created to remind people of America’s history and original inhibitors pre-colonization.(Alyssa Kelly photo)“Tribal Map” is an art piece Quick-To-See Smith said she created to remind people of America’s history and original inhibitors pre-colonization.(Alyssa Kelly photo)

The artist of over 50-years presented her works at the Missoula Art Museum and described the creative process. “In a sense, nothing is sacred when it comes to expression,” she said. “I find inspiration everywhere and I’m not afraid to say what I think. My art has to reach a certain place before I can say that it’s done. It has to feel right to me.”

Political commentary is signature to the 77-year-old artist’s work. Her painting titled ‘The King of the Mountain’ featured a depiction of a gory hill made up of skeletons, money, barrels of spilled oil, angels fallen in the background, and even familiar media icons like Snow White. “This painting is about the Iraq War for oil and greed,” the artist said as she pointed out national flags staked at the top of the hill. “Have you ever played king of the hill as a child? That’s what this war is about to me; and its founded on blood, which is why I made the base red. To me, this is driven by the male ego, which is why I included the image of sperm.”

King of The Mountain was a piece Quick-To-See Smith said she created to express her views on the war in Iraq.(Alyssa Kelly photo)King of The Mountain was a piece Quick-To-See Smith said she created to express her views on the war in Iraq.(Alyssa Kelly photo)

Quick-To-See Smith was born on the Flathead Reservation and has presented over 100 contemporary art exhibits throughout the world. Now residing in New Mexico, the instructor holds four honorary doctorate degrees and has won numerous awards including the Women’s Caucus for the Arts Lifetime Achievement. “I am very proud of where I’m from. The Salish culture has shaped my view of the world. I thankful for that,” she said.

Several members of the tribal community attended the gallery including Montana’s former Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau. Quick-To-See Smith commended Juneau’s work in implementing Indian Education For All–requiring Montana’s public schools to teach Native American studies.(Alyssa Kelly photo)Several members of the tribal community attended the gallery including Montana’s former Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau. Quick-To-See Smith commended Juneau’s work in implementing Indian Education For All–requiring Montana’s public schools to teach Native American studies.(Alyssa Kelly photo)

Native American issues are often highlighted in Quick-To-See Smith’s work. A painted piece entitled “Spam” features a buffalo with various news clippings, one saying: “At least we can say we survived.” The artist said the painting was a metaphor for the traditional and modern Native American diet. “Did you know Native Americans have unique genetics?” she said. “When they do medical things we need to remember that treatments and medications are made for white people and we Native Americans often get sicker. There has to be a new plateau in Native American medicines to get back to our traditional foods and medicines.”

Quick-To-See Smith raised two sons in a single parent home. Her son, who is also an artist, shared a story of his mother allowing him to smear pudding in his high chair as an act of self expression. (Alyssa Kelly photo)Quick-To-See Smith raised two sons in a single parent home. Her son, who is also an artist, shared a story of his mother allowing him to smear pudding in his high chair as an act of self expression. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

Another art piece entitled “Tribal Map” featured a painted map of the current United States borders and identifications of known tribal territories. “These are the tribes that exist today and there is more,” she said. “If I was able to put all the tribes’ traditional territories there would be thousands more. We are here. This history isn’t taught but it’s very important. Montana is the only state that is required to teach tribal history in schools. That has to change. This needs to be taught all over the United States.”

Quick-To-See Smith’s exhibit will be featured at the Missoula Art Museum until March 10, 2018. For more information on the artist visit: https://www.jaunequicktoseesmith.org.

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