A show highlighting the work of 70 Native American fashion designers is going on now. These designers tread solidly down a path of world-class couture design while having the unique ability to draw from nature and their culture during their artistic journey of discovery. It is adventurous journey that has brought the designers of Native Fashion Now to the Portland Art Museum.
Native Fashion Now is not what you would expect to see in a Native American art exhibit. It’s edgy, challenging and fun. There are five sections to explore in the exhibit, originally organized by the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, Massachusetts. The sections examine four themes, Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators and Provocateurs. And Portland has added a sixth section featuring Northwest connections to Native fashion through a collaboration with Nike, N7, and Eighth Generation, founded by northwest artist Louie Gong.
Continue to explore that first room and you’ll encounter Orlando Dugi’s (Navajo) gown. You’ll recognize it right away. It is the amazing gown flowing across the building-high poster on the front of the museum. But check out the details. Dugi said the headpiece is made of African porcupine quills and the feathers are from exotic birds. Dugi combs the booths at Native American Pow Wows for some of his finds and then works his beading and design magic on the piece.
As you continue from section to section you’ll be drawn to, or perhaps shocked by, the activist street designs. I enjoyed chatting with Jared Yazzie (Navajo) who hits controversy head-on with strong t-shirt designs. Check out his “MIS-REP” shirt. You’ll know exactly what the sentiment is! And, didn’t you know that NATIVE AMERICANS DISCOVERED COLUMBUS? That t-shirt is available in the museum gift shop. Jared tells it like it is. Many of his other designs can be found on Jessica Metcalfe’s website.
You’ll be wowed by the dramatically beaded Christian Louboutin boots by Jamie Okuma (Luiseno/Shoshone-Bannock) and the edgy metal jewelry of Pat Pruitt (Laguna Pueblo). Each room is full so plan to spend some time at the event.
Each piece tells a story of innovation. Each piece draws from the designer’s history and culture as they move forward on their journeys of contemporary design excellence.
Watch for special events and lectures during the show. You may even encounter a skateboard park right at the museum in August. Native Fashion Now runs through September 4, 2016.
1219 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205