The First Water Is the Body

Main Gallery
October 9, 2021–January 23, 2022
Curated by Maria Hupfield

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

The First Water Is the Body installation image. Photo by Etienne Frossard.

J. Quick-To-See Smith & N. Ambrose-Smith, 200 Years Change/No Change

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Neal Ambrose-Smith, Two Hundred Years: Change/No Change, 2002, Silkscreen, bankers boxes, mirror, poncho, brass rod. Photo by Etienne Frossard.

Carrie Allison, Red River

Carrie Allison, Red River, 2019, 6/0 seed beads on interface. Photo by Etienne Frossard.

Regalia by Shannon Gustafson

Shannon Gustafson, Regalia, 2021, Velveteen and applique. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Etienne Frossard.

Shan Goshorn, This River Runs Red

Shan Goshorn, This River Runs Red, 2018, Arches watercolor paper splints printed with archival inks, acrylic paint, artificial sinew, 12 x 8 x 8 inches. Collection of Jody and Mike Wahlig

Courtney Leonard, BREACH, in The First Water Is the Body

Courtney M. Leonard, BREACH: Logbook 21 | CONVOKE, 2021, Multi-ply birch wood and acrylic, coiled and woven earthenware, coiled micaceous clay, oyster shells. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Etienne Frossard.

RYAN! Feddersen, Micro Spill

RYAN! Feddersen, Micro Spill, 2016, Acrylic, cement, and Astro Turf in a snow globe, 11 x 7 x 7 inches. Courtesy of the artist

Natalie Ball, Umbo Basket

Natalie Ball, Umbo Basket, 2021, Mixed media. Photo by Etienne Frossard.

Holland Andrews by Kali Spitzer

Kali Spitzer, Holland Andrews, 2018 Print on Dibond, 40 x 32 inches. Courtesy of the artist

On Behalf of Water by Anita Fields

Anita Fields, On Behalf of Water, 2021, 7 figures, Clay, gold luster glaze, and mixed media collage, Dimensions variable; each figure 10-12 inches. Courtesy of the artist