The First Water Is the Body took its title from a poem by Natalie Diaz, published in her book, Postcolonial Love Poem, 2020. A visual complement to Diaz’s text, the work in this exhibition accepted the body as the human form of water and that the fate of water is the fate of all people. Featuring the work of 16 electric and unapologetic makers that belong to and operate in relation with Indigenous communities from across the USA and Canada, these artists worked to produce seismic shifts in cultural perspectives that point to reciprocity and critical accountability and awaken solidarity with place, lands, and waters.
The exhibition, which included photography, video, sculpture, ceramics, basketry, beadwork, and textiles, was curated by Maria Hupfield, an artist, educator, and member of the Anishinaabek Nation from Wasauksing First Nation, Ontario, Canada. A fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Hupfield accompanied the exhibition. The exhibition and publication were funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Wilf Family Foundations, and the NJ Council for the Humanities.
Participating artists: Carrie Allison, Natalie Ball, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Jewel Jenkins, Dr. Mique’l Dangeli & Nick Dangeli, RYAN! Feddersen, Anita Fields, Shan Goshorn, Shannon Gustafson, Courtney Leonard, Marianne Nicolson, Wendy Red Star, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith & Neal Ambrose-Smith, and Kali Spitzer.
The First Water Is the Body installation image. Photo by Etienne Frossard.